Borough Council kills proposed cannabis ordinance for retailers; plans underway for new ordinance

Hopewell Borough Council has killed an ordinance that would have allowed cannabis retailers and delivery service operations in the borough.

Council members voted to kill the ordinance that would have allowed cannabis retailers and delivery service operations in the service zone and only cannabis retailers in the B-R zone (business zone), during a public hearing at the governing body’s May 5 meeting.

Council President Sky Morehouse, Councilman Ryan Kennedy, Councilwoman Debra Stuhler, Councilman Chris Fossel, and Councilwoman Samara McAuliffe voted “yes” on the measure.

“I’m unchanged in my opinion. There has been a lot of discussion before this and the ordinance is well done,” Fossel said. “I’m sure it’s good. My concern is that it brings it a little bit closer to our youth and I’m concerned about that.”

Kennedy said he shared concerns about locations in his reasoning for voting “no.”

“I agree with Sky [Morehouse] that this is something our community largely embraces. I would be completely in favor of it if we were to have a process to choose the location or the business,” he said. “I am not ready to say any place in the B-R zone is ready for a dispensary without some other process. I’m in favor of exploring this in the two zones we discussed and I’m not ready with this language.”

David Mackie is supportive of the ordinance in general, but said he does think more analysis is needed.

“I do think it is worth doing a little more analysis to see if on a more granular level geographically or in terms of circumstances if we want to place some additional restrictions,” he said. “Or if there is another process of restricting it so that it is just not anywhere in the zones. I’m going to say ‘no’ to this particular version.”

Even though the ordinance has been killed the council plans to re-evaluate to determine what additional controls are needed, including potentially locations in zones, and see what additional controls the borough has.

Then the governing body plans to reintroduce a new ordinance that will still allow for the operations of cannabis retailers and delivery services.

“At the end of the day we have to kill the tiger, so that we then can then re-evaluate and reintroduce the ordinance,” Morehouse said.

Under the previous ordinance, if it had been approved the borough would have allowed for a maximum of two cannabis retail establishments and cannabis delivery services would be unlimited.

The council made the decision the kill the ordinance before them after public comments raised some concern and were split with some against the ordinance and others in favor.

“The borough is small and the B-R zone is mixed. We have residential and business right next to each other,” said Bob Donaldson, Hopewell Borough resident. “We have families and business right next to each other. We could have this pop up next to a house of worship or playground or church and do we really want to have that exposure to our kids and children?”

Mackie responded and said that the council did have discussions about location.

“Speaking for only myself I look at it very similar to a liquor store. As far as I know I do not think we have any prohibition about having a liquor store from a certain distance from a school or a church,” he added. “This is not a place where people are using the product. Having an exclusion zone around it would probably make it infeasible in part because of how the zones are distributed, but I also wasn’t really sure of the purpose of it.”

Heidi Wilenius, borough resident and business owner, said she did not have a problem with a cannabis retailer or deliver service operation in the borough.

“To me alcohol is a lot more dangerous. I’m the daughter of an alcoholic and it’s a horrible thing, but I do not think alcohol should be illegal,” she said. “Cannabis is a legal substance that very wonderful people consume and they are free to do so. I welcome them into my town if they want to come and buy some and on their way out of town they can stop and buy something from my store too. I see it as another retailer coming into this town and I really want to build up the retail in this town and I see it as an asset.”

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