High expectations for cannabis sales in Hopewell Borough, also church needs and police reports at Council meeting

Hopewell Borough City Council began its February meeting with a Police Department update presented by Hopewell Township Police Department’s Director Robert A. “Bob” Karmazin. In 2021, the Police Department conducted 524 traffic stops and received 1832 calls for service in Hopewell Borough. The Police Department issued 193 summonses, investigated 36 accidents, made one DWI arrest, and investigated one fatal accident involving a motor vehicle.

Part 1 crimes in Hopewell Borough included three cases of simple assault, two cases burglary, two cases theft, and nine cases of domestic violence. Part 2 crimes included 15 cases of fraud and two cases of possession of a controlled dangerous substance. Other offenses included five cases of criminal mischief, six cases of harassment, and four cases of trespassing. Fraud is the only crime that has had a significant increase from past years, which included fraud committed online.

Karmazin explained that, as several officers on the force are near retirement, the Department has developed a strategy to recruit their own force through a 10-12 month hiring process. For the first time, the Department will sponsor candidates to attend the Police academy. With the anticipated growth in the Hopewell Valley, HTPD will need to have between 38 and 53 Police officers in the future. Karmazin said the program had already yielded the Department three excellent officers, and two more officers are currently going through the program.

“This will help with manpower with the upcoming retirements we have. Officers historically have come here and they have stayed and that is a sign of a good department. We have a generation we’re going to swap out. The youth we have here will be brought up with a new generation of police officers,” said Karmazin.

Council members inquired about traffic enforcement in Hopewell Borough during the pandemic.

Karmazin said, “It’s a combination of COVID, manpower, and of ebb and flow of manpower. Our ultimate goal for the next generation that I am mentoring is to have the right people at the right locations. There is not a Department in Mercer County that is not having a difficult time with manpower. Dedication to going up to the Borough more is something I’m striving for.”

Next on the agenda, Council discussed the possibility of creating ordinances that would allow cannabis businesses to operate within the Borough. Mayor Paul Anzano said the purpose of the initial discussion was to be prepared at the next meeting to craft something concrete to present to the public. It was revealed throughout the course of the meeting that two entrepreneurs had expressed interest in opening marijuana-related businesses in town, and the former Kooltronics building was mentioned as a possible site for micro-cultivation. At present, Hopewell Borough has opted-out of permitting such businesses.

Lisa Maddox, an attorney who specializes in local government zoning and laws, provided an overview about how recreational marijuana businesses will operate in the State. According to Maddox, state cannabis licenses are highly regulated, and applicants are heavily vetted.

Maddox broke down the classifications for different types as class one is cultivation, class two is manufacturing, class three is wholesale, class four is bulk distribution, class five is retail, and class six is delivery only.

Maddox said, “You want to make sure it is in the best interest of the municipality as a whole, as you would with anything.”

Anzano asked: “if we do get an applicant and they have the State approval, we can be sure they are a good actor in many different ways?”

Maddox answered, “Absolutely. They are well-vetted.”

Karmazin was asked to weigh in and said, “One thing we have had discussions about, in terms of principles, is one, is the squeeze worth the juice for the 2% revenue, and two, it is legal, but there is no set level you are considered to be intoxicated if you cause an accident…..Ten to 15 years from now, this will be no different than going to a liquor store.”

Councilmember Ryan Kennedy said that the focus of drafting ordinances should stay on the classifications that the Borough can actually support, like micro-cultivation and a small dispensary so that the Council could focus on what they would want each of those to look like.

Anzano agreed, stating that there was a convenience factor to having a dispensary available for residents of the Borough, pointing out that when the recreational marijuana question was on the ballot that it passed with 81% among Hopewell Borough voters.

As the cannabis discussion closed, members gave updates on projects that they guide. Kennedy said discussions were underway about having Cruise Night return to the Borough. The new Pedestrian, Bicycle and Safety Advisory Committee met for the first time with a strong turnout from members of the public. The Committee is establishing possible ways to catalog and track issues by how each issue ranks on safety, cost, etc. Almost 200 people have signed up for the new Hopewell Borough email that goes out every Sunday. The Elks Lodge continues to offer free Covid testing to Hopewell residents through Montgomery Health Department.

Councilmember David Mackie said that the Planning Board approved the Bistro Inn with a two-year time frame. American Water customers may notice that water smells more chlorinated as the company switches from chlorine to chlorine gas once a year for disinfection purposes, and it is nothing of concern. Then he mentioned that the Old School Baptist Church Meeting House had reached out for guidance and help.

Anzano said, “The administrators or owners of the church are running out of money for maintenance of the building and cemetery.”

Michelle Hovan, Borough Administrator, said, “They are fundraising right now….they need a certain amount of funding to keep the cemetery going. Over time, the pot of money has dwindled. An appeal letter is being sent as we speak. They are working really hard to increase their visibility to the public so that they can have a new day.”

Mackie asked, “What kinds of constraints are there? Everyone who looks at this only wants to put their hands around it and preserve it. [The church] has remained unchanged since 1840 to an exceptional degree. It’s the nucleus around which this community developed. How can we use this resource in a great way?”

The next meeting of the Hopewell Borough Council is scheduled for March 3 at 7pm.

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