Zoning board to continue hearing on retail cannabis application

Evolve Sky seeks conditional use variance

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Evolve Sky LLC’s hearing for a retail cannabis storefront in Hopewell Borough will continue in March after the Zoning Board did not have a full complement of members.

The Hopewell Borough Planning Board also serves as the Borough’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.

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The board needed to act in its role as the zoning board since Evolve Sky is seeking a conditional use variance. Certain planning board members including Mayor Ryan Kennedy, Councilman David Mackie, William Rogers (who resigned), and Vice Chair Marylou Ferrara, who recused herself, could not participate because they did not qualify to serve on the zoning board in the hearing that took place on Feb. 7.

Conditional use approval and D-variances require five “yes” votes. In a straw vote, the remaining six eligible members decided to carry the meeting. A full Zoning Board has seven members. The hearing was continued to the board’s next meeting on March 6 at 7 p.m.

The borough is seeking a second alternate to serve on the board.

Evolve Sky is requesting the board to grant a D-3 conditional use variance, a bulk variance for signage, and a waiver of site plan approval for an adult use recreational cannabis dispensary at 57 Hamilton Ave. in the Service Zone district of Hopewell Borough.

The applicant proposes to convert 3,600 square feet of office space – part of a larger existing one-story building – for the cannabis retail store.

“The property has been through a lot and is not currently fully occupied,” said Graig Corveleyn, applicant attorney from Corveleyn Law Firm. “The property comprises of 3.39 acres with a total of 63,000 square feet of a one-story masonry building.”

The proposed store is bounded by Somerset Street, Hamilton Avenue, and Lafayette Street.

“The applicant’s proposal is to impact the interior of the building about 3,600 square feet that was previously occupied by another tenant and was previously vacated,” Corveleyn said, adding steps on the Somerset Street side or Hamilton Avenue will be handicapped accessible.

David Collins, applicant architect from Feltz Collins Architecture, Lincroft, said they are renovating the main entrance into a secure entry area off Somerset Street.

“When a customer comes to the store they are buzzed in and they check in with the receptionist, they are then buzzed into the dispensary,” he said. “The dispensary counter wraps around three sides of the dispensary.”

Collins explained that the rest of the renovation work is located at the back of house/staff area, which will include a breakroom, an office, an IT room, a vault, a pick pack area and a receiving area.

“When product is brought to the site, it will come from the Hamilton Avenue side and be brought into the entrance of the corridor to the back to the receiving area,” he said.

There are four parking fields for the store. Three on site and one is located on Somerset Street on the north side of the building for a total of 168 parking spaces with four handicapped parking spaces.

The applicant plans to use UPS battery backups for the security system and are not proposing the use of a generator.

Tony Gallo is the applicant’s security expert and is the managing partner of Sapphire Risk Advisory Group based in Texas. He said there will be a restricted area for employees in the reception/entrance area for customers.

“We have a third-party alarm monitoring company that would contact the police if glass breaks and motion activated alarms [go off],” he explained. “There will be a security person during business hours and at the end of the night that person will walk out with the rest of the employees to make sure of their safety.”

Evolve Sky proposes to sell pre-packaged products such as edibles, oils, vape pens, and flowers, according to operator Sajid Khan. They plan to schedule hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“This facility (building) allowed for us to set a standard for where security can be managed, and parking was relatively outside the main street,” Khan said. “Combined they were the deciding factors in [the selection of] this location.”

The applicant plans to have seven employees on-site in two shifts. There will be a morning and afternoon shift.

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