The Vernon Township Council on May 9 introduced an ordinance that will allow for an unlimited number of cannabis cultivators in certain zones of the township.
The original draft of the ordinance only allowed two cannabis cultivators in the McAfee Village Mixed Use Zone and on R2Z Zone properties with a minimum of six acres located west of County Road 517 and on R-1 Zone properties with a minimum of six acres located on the northbound side of County Road 517.
Councilman Mike Furrey suggested allowing an unlimited number of cannabis cultivators.
“I believe it is possible to change that ordinance to make it an unlimited number of sites rather than limiting it to two cultivation sites,” Furrey said.
Mayor Howard Burrell said he liked the recommendation for unlimited sites because he said the township will reap the greatest income from cannabis cultivation.
“The intent and desire is that all the cannabis that’s either manufactured or sold in the state of New Jersey be grown in the state of New Jersey,” Burrell said. “And the base of it is cultivation. Cultivators that are located in Vernon can sell their cannabis anywhere in the state of New Jersey. When you consider the fact that we can get 2 percent of the gross sales, the more of them that are growing cannabis, the more dollars we will get.”
Councilman Brian Lynch was in favor of it and said if it doesn’t work out, the township could always go back and change it later.
“Vernon Township has always been on the wrong side of anything new that happened and I think we have an opportunity here to bring some tax dollars into this town with little or no effort on our part,” Lynch said.
Council Vice President Natalie Buccieri said the township should do more research on what effect allowing unlimited cultivators would have on the township before making a quick decision.
“There’s a lot of farmland interspersed with neighborhoods and our concerns with growth facilities, odors released, increased traffic moving the product out of our community could be an issue if we have an unlimited amount,” she said.
Council President Patrick Rizzuto said the change should be looked at by professionals and said it may be more difficult to go back.
“If you had come and said, can we make this three or four, perhaps it might have seemed less aggressive and perhaps it might have found some happier homes, but you didn’t,” Rizzuto said.
Both the amendment and introduction of the ordinance passed, 3-2. Furrey, Lynch and Councilman Harry Shortway voted to amend and introduce, while Buccieri and Rizzuto voted against it.
The council will host a public hearing on the ordinance on May 23.