Township Committee to hold public hearing on allowing retail cannabis establishments in April

An ordinance allowing cannabis retail businesses in Hopewell Township is now heading back to the Township Committee for a final hearing and vote following a review from the Planning Board.

The Township Committee will now hold the second reading and public hearing on April 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal building.

At the Planning Board’s March 24 meeting, board members deemed that the ordinance was not inconsistent with the township Master Plan.

“The board’s role here is to review the ordinance to determine is consistency, as well as provide any comments back to the Township Committee identifying any areas of concern or need for further discussion,” said Joanna Slagle, board’s planner.

Chair Karen Murphy and board members Paul Kiss, Township Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski, Township Committeeman Michael Ruger, Vanessa Sandom, and Russell Swanson voted “yes” on the measure that the ordinance was not inconsistent with the Master Plan on March 24.

One of the Planning Board’s two recommendations to the Township Committee is to restate conditional use standard No. 11 to: no cannabis retail establishment shall be permitted within a residential use. Conditional use standard No. 11 in the ordinance currently reads, “No cannabis retail establishment shall be permitted within a single-family detached dwelling, a single-family semi-detached dwelling, a townhouse dwelling or a multi-family dwelling.”

The second recommendation is toward a typo correction to a conditional use standard regarding signage.

The Township Committee will also permit cannabis delivery services if they are owned and located on the same property as a licensed cannabis retail business.

According to the ordinance, cannabis retailers and delivery services are only permitted in the neighborhood retail commercial zone (C-1), shopping center (SC), shopping center 1 (SC1), industrial and commercial (IC) districts, and highway business and office (HBO) zone.

The Township Committee is only allowing for two cannabis retailers to operate in Hopewell Township.

“I think we have taken a cautious approach to cannabis this whole time and this is just another step in that direction. Allowing only one seemed a little too restrictive and three seemed like it would be too many,” Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning said. “It seems like two is the right number based on the size of the retail district we have in Hopewell Township.”

Hours of operation for cannabis retailers have been set for 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and all storefront windows for retailers must be heavily tinted or blacked out.

The governing body will not allow consumption areas in the township, according to the ordinance.

Conditional uses include a 1,000-foot buffer from schools, playgrounds, and athletic fields; the controlling of all odor from the storage sale of cannabis from the business; the size of imagery for signs for cannabis retailers exceeding the 10% limit of the total area of the sign; and the prohibiting of drive through at any cannabis retail establishment.

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