The Vernon Township Council might amend its cannabis ordinance, after giving it a second reading at a special meeting on June 9. The decision might happen at the June 13 meeting.
The township currently has two companies – Sussex Cultivation and Garden State Green Genetics – that have conditional cannabis cultivator licenses and they must provide the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) a host of documents by Aug. 9 to meet the conditions needed to maintain their licenses.
According to Chris Dowling of Sussex Cultivation, the company is confident their final approval will be forthcoming, and their proposed location is on a “rural piece of underutilized property here in town.”
Two months ago, the NJCRC limited the number of conditional cannabis cultivation licensing awards and is not expected to issue any more for at least two years.
Both companies received support in the form of a resolution from the Vernon Township Council on Dec. 13, 2021. Garden Green Genetics intended to establish its facility at 1761 Route 565 and Sussex Cultivation intended to establish its facility at 1785 Route 565.
The council recently introduced Ordinance 22-11, which would allow an unlimited number of cannabis cultivators in the light industrial zone and also takes away the restriction of two cultivators in the McAfee Village Mixed Use Zone. It also allows cultivators on R-2 (low-density residential properties) with a minimum of six acres located west of County Road 517 and on R-1 Zone (rural residential) properties with a minimum of six acres on the northbound side of County Road 517.
The township’s Land Use Board found the proposal for the R-2 and R-1 zones to be inconsistent with the township’s master plan and recommended the ordinance be amended to remove cannabis cultivators from the residential zones and not permit an unlimited amount.
Land Use Board member Joe Tadrick said at least one of those properties is located in the township’s R-2 zone, considered low-density residential.
Township attorney Josh Zielinski gave the council three options: pass Ordinance 22-11 as is on Monday, June 13, and then introduce a new ordinance to make necessary changes, reject the ordinance completely and start fresh with a new ordinance, or amend the ordinance on Monday and adopt it on June 27.
Zielinski also said the council is not bound by the Land Use Board’s recommendation.
Mayor Howard Burrell, along with councilmembers Harry Shortway and Mike Furrey, favored passing Ordinance 22-11 so Sussex Cultivation and Garden State Green Genetics could complete their applications and the township would have as much time as it needs to get the ordinances in line.
“If we make this commitment to these two companies and follow through with that commitment, I think we’re sending a strong message to the people out there that we’re doing everything we can to stimulate the local economy.”
The rest of the council leaned toward amending the proposed ordinance and making necessary changes once without having to come back to it again.
“I don’t want to keep going back to something,” Council Vice President Natalie Buccieri said. “I’d like to do it right.”