Hopewell Township is prohibiting all six cannabis business class licenses – for now.
Members of the Township Committee adopted an ordinance prohibiting any cannabis class business from operating in the township during a virtual meeting held Aug. 16. The ordinance’s adoption is before the state deadline for municipalities to opt in or opt out of recreational cannabis.
Mayor Julie Blake, Deputy Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, Township Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski, Township Committeeman Michael Ruger, and Township Committeewoman Kristin McLaughlin voted “yes” on the ordinance’s adoption.
“This is the only way we can control our own destiny, which is to opt out. If we do not opt out we have no control,” Mayor Julie Blake said.
The decision to prohibit all classes is temporary and makes certain that the township meets the state deadline of Aug. 21.
“To make sure that we meet our state deadline, this ordinance would opt the township out of all cannabis activities for now. The main objective of that is to meet the state deadline,” said Scott Miccio, township attorney from law firm Parker McCay. “If we do not meet the state deadline it will be forced upon the Township of Hopewell and the township would not have a choice of rolling the aspects it wants to opt into.”
A reasons resolution was also approved by the township after the adoption of the opt-out ordinance. The resolution was needed since the opt-out ordinance was seen as inconsistent with the Master Plan by the Planning Board, which had expressed concerns about the prohibition of cultivation in the ordinance since agriculture is part of the Master Plan.
There were dual ordinances opting in or opting out of recreational cannabis on the agenda at the evening’s meeting. The ordinance on second reading opting in to manufacturing and cultivation died in lieu of a slightly changed similar ordinance opting in that incorporated Planning Board and additional stakeholder suggested changes.
The Township Committee, at the same meeting, also introduced an opt-in ordinance for manufacturing and cultivation. A public hearing on the ordinance would take place at a Township Committee meeting on Sept. 13.
“We are changing zoning laws, so there has to be a super notice. This means that everyone who lives in Valley Resource Conservation (VRC) zone is going to be noticed about the changes in the law for that zone,” Blake said. “It won’t affect everyone in that area unless 200 feet within that zone.”
Township officials indicated that there would be households that would receive a notice that would not be near the potential businesses.
Cannabis cultivation and manufacturing would be conditional uses in the VRC Zone. The conditions include that the lot be at least 50 acres in size, located no more than two miles from the interstate interchange, and have a maximum lot coverage of 15%.
Any potential applicant seeking a resolution of local support would submit a concept plan to the Township Committee for their review and explain how the applicant would comply with the township zoning, site plan and licensing requirements, according to ordinance.
The Township Committee would consider the proposals in the order they are submitted.
A cannabis business cannot operate in the township without a state permit or license and oversight by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, as well as oversight and the issued license by Hopewell Township.
For local licensing, the applicant would have to submit site plan approval from the Planning Board, comply with all the elements of its concept plan and other township ordinances, and pay required fees. Each local license would be annually renewed and have a renewal fee.
Hopewell Township will also have a $5,000 application fee for a cannabis cultivator or manufacturers license. The annual registration fee would be $5,000, according to the ordinance.
Additionally, hours of operation for cultivators and manufacturers will be limited to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For the tax portion of cannabis, Hopewell Township’s ordinance can tax up to 2% for sales by cultivators and manufacturers. The 2% tax is the maximum permissible tax.