Highlands: Going to Pot

Call me a cynic, call me a worry wart, or call me anything you’d like. But if the people of Highlands don’t start waking up and looking at what is going on in their town, they’re going to lose the Highlands we all know and love. They’ve certainly already lost control seeing how there is rarely any conflicting opinions or questioning of what the mayor says and promotes. Consider tomorrow (Wednesday) night’s council meeting. Without prior announcement, the governing body has decided to hold the meeting at the Community Center, which is a good idea as we all strive and yearn to get over the Covid restrictions. BUT…they’re doing it without giving citizens the right to continue virtual attendance if they choose. Or if they need. On top of that, they have public hearings on a couple of ordinances on the agenda, along with the introduction of SEVEN new ordinances, several having to do with their “we wanna be the very first to sell marijuana in our community” plans and goals. Think of the problems this will cause without even considering what the heck is in those ordinances. For one thing, now that virtual meetings are a reality, shouldn’t the governing body consider continuing virtual options to meet ADA requirements for handicapped people? Say, people who cannot drive at night, people who cannot walk up the stairs to the Community Center, people who cannot hear in that room but certainly can hear virtually. Then, if the public learns there are SEVEN ordinances being introduced, a couple on that marijuana issue, what are they going to do if there is an overflow crowd? A little planning ahead or simply offering virtual or live, would resolve two problems before they are even created. The ordinances up for public hearings probably won’t draw much of a crowd, although the need to allow Bingo on Sundays and spending the money for that ordinance seems a bit strange with so many other problems facing the borough. IS there some unseen or unknown bunch of folks that suddenly want to conduct Sunday Bingos? Or any other day for that matter? The other public hearing is on that $10 million for the new borough hall, appropriating $4.750 in bonds or notes to help finance it. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to see whether FEMA is going to give the town the money its leaders are hoping to get? Here’s another vital ordinance that is being introduced, with costs, I presume, not only for the attorney drawing it up but also for its advertisement in the newspapers, which is certainly not cheap these days. But in Highlands, it’s important enough to introduce an ordinance that takes the word “peddler” out of its licensing code for “mobile vendors,” those folks who sell from bikes, cars, trucks or other mobile means of travel. Is peddler a bad word? There’s an ordinance being introduced to extend the liquor licensed for Off the Hook, apparently to accommodate its outdoor dining. The restaurant has been doing a spectacular job of making that corner look neat, clean and inviting, and has thought outside the box when it comes to continuing to provide great meals and drinks outdoors. There are a couple of parking and no parking ordinances being introduced, one that takes away resident only parking in some places, one that takes away temporary permit parking on Washington Avenue for the….you’ll love this….”reconstruction project.” Is that where the bulkhead fell apart? Then there are the marijuana ordinances.. The one setting the fee to get a license to sell marijuana. That ordinance isn’t even designed to help Highlands financially. It sets the application fee at $1500, and the annual renewal at $750. Now check out and consider other states which have been in the business of selling pot for a while…those fees ran in the tens of thousands! And that shop will be able to be open seven days a week! From 10 a.m. every day. Of course, on Sunday, it can only be open until 5 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., it is a day of rest, remember. The borough is setting its transfer and user taxes at 2 per cent, another bargain for the marijuana dealer, not so much for the borough coffers. Then there’s the ordinance that says where the shop can be. And once again, Highlands appears to want to be sure to be the first and the cheapest to allow this new kind of business to come right smack in the middle of its business district…..or the highway! Of course the new pot place is going to have to be 1,000 feet or more from a school…but isn’t most of the highway residential? And does the school at OLPH count as a school? It still is, although closed now. What happens if it reopens? Or if a cannabis shop comes in first, can’t it ever re-open? Is that yet another jab at private education? I’m really not making this stuff up. Highlands residents, please go to the Highlands Borough page, check out the agenda, read each of the resolutions and codes yourself, attend the meeting if you’re able and ask yourself…..is this really still Highlands? Is it the future you want for Highlands? Can you even absorb yet another SEVEN new ordinances at a single meeting? Is this where you want to raise your kids? It’s up to you.


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