Members of the Hopewell Township Committee approved a resolution of support this month for Stone Hill Manufacturing as the company applies for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing licenses from the state.
Mayor Julie Blake, Deputy Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, Township Committeewoman Kristin McLaughlin, Township Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski, and Township Committeeman Michael Ruger voted “yes” to approve the resolution during the Township Committee meeting on Dec. 6.
The resolution of support indicates that the application by Stone Hill Manufacturing, LLC is in the number of applications authorized by the township and would operate in a zone which permits cannabis cultivation and manufacturing. If given the licenses for cultivation and manufacturing from the state, the Planning Board will still have to review and approve of a site plan for the project.
“We are in the process of applying for Class 1 cultivation and Class 2 manufacturing licenses with the state. Those applications begin to be accepted by the state Dec. 15 and we have been working on this for over two years,” Stone Hill Executive Chairman Rob Piasio said. “As part of our application we are required to obtain a resolution from our host municipality, essentially to the affect that our project complies with local ordinances.”
Hopewell Township is only allowing one cannabis business in the township. A single company or business that holds both a cultivation and manufacturing licenses is permitted as long as they both are on the same site.
“Should they not get the license from the state, we would still have this license available for a different company,” Blake said.
In a presentation to the Township Committee, Piasio, who is also a Hopewell resident, said the proposed facility location is for 147 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road.
The location would be across from the township municipal building and Hopewell Township Police Department.
“Many of you may know it as Hoch Farm. It is a 135-acre parcel. Our facility plans to cover 5 acres,” he said. One of the questions is, why do we need 135 acres if we are building a 5-acre facility? There are few reasons for that, one is that the town has very wisely adopted one of the strictest ordinances in the entire country to protect our community from nuisance and we of course intend to comply with all the ordinances.”
Having a 5-acre footprint in the 135-acre parcel affords Stone Hill a large buffer around the facility to help them mitigate any potential nuisance factors, according to the presentation.
The company will be utilizing Dutch Venlo-style greenhouse technology and plan to build a Dutch Venlo fully modern automated greenhouse.
Addressing concerns about light pollution for greenhouses, Piasio stressed that they would not have lights on all night and would not be providing augmented light during the evenings for the greenhouse portion of the facility.
“The reason for that is as our plants are young and growing. They are contained in an indoor portion of the facility and are exposed to continuous light while they are young, but it is indoors, so the light pollution does not exist,” he said.
“As the plants mature they are then moved out into the greenhouse area to flower and as part of the process to encourage them to flower they are deprived light and so for 12 hours a day, we have light deprivation curtains that are essentially stopping light from penetrating the facility.”
During the presentation Stone Hill stated that odor control is entirely manageable and is an engineering and cost issue, also indicating that initial water usage will come from rainfall or snow melt.
“What we have committed to is advanced filtration and carbon filtration that will eliminate odor from the facility so it is not going to impact the community whatsoever,” Piasio said. “The facility will source water from rainwater collection from the greenhouse roofs, which are then utilized to water the facility’s plants.”
When asked by Ruger about an idea on the kind of traffic that could be expected from a facility such as the one presented by Stone Hill, representatives for Stone Hill said volumes of deliveries would typically be one semi-truck a week of media such as soil type materials and no more than 100 full-time employees would be expected at the facility.
Additionally, Peters-Manning spoke to a concern raised by farmers in the township about pollen control and keeping the cannabis pollen within Stone Hill’s facility.
Stone Hill said there would be no viable pollen leaving the facility and that they are not breeders. If there were to be breeding it would take place in a small 100-square-foot room with triple filtration and different uniforms for the staff going in and out, according to representatives.
Piasio suggested that Stone Hill is actively working with conservation organizations and township officials about the possibility of donating the northern portion of Hoch Farm, a 65-acre parcel, as public space and a park.