Hopewell Borough seeks public input on retail cannabis

During its August meeting, the Hopewell Borough Council introduced its new cannabis ordinance to the public in the form of a first reading. The Council once again asked for input from citizens. The ordinance is available in full on the Borough website, and responses should be submitted in writing by emailing the Borough before the next meeting on September 9.

When the Council moved to discuss the new draft ordinance for Cannabis sales and delivery in Hopewell Borough, Heather Kumar, Joshua Rosenstock, and Tara Hopper of Sourland Provisions expressed interest in opening a cannabis boutique in the Borough.

Kumar said, “we love Hopewell. We want to celebrate Hopewell. We want people to eat, shop, and hike in Hopewell.”

Kumar said that her planned boutique would provide locally grown, craft cannabis to consumers. She said that she would adorn the boutique with art by local artists and photographs and information about the Sourland mountains. Hopper said that she was born and raised in New Jersey. She began her career as a certified social worker and became interested in medicinal marijuana use for adults. This early interest transitioned to knowledge about the broader adult-use market.

Mayor Paul Anzano asked what efforts were put forth to prevent underage use and other undesirable elements of cannabis sales.

Hopper answered that every person entering the establishment would have to present an identification. Consuming cannabis on the premises would get a person blacklisted from the establishment. Unlike alcohol sales, there is no consumption allowed on-site with cannabis.

Councilmember David Mackie asked: “Could you give us a general sense of what delivery would look like?”

Hopper said that usually delivery starts off with few cars. It requires a great deal of security, so it is uncertain how lucrative delivery services will be. She said that there is speculation that delivery will be a difficult business to build successfully. She added that some businesses that have started delivery already require body cams for delivery drivers who are required to check identification of customers. The delivery address must match the address on the consumer’s id, so products cannot be delivered to hotels or motels.

Kumar said, “We want to showcase local establishments. We want people to get their product and support local businesses.”

Kumar said that she planned to have bike racks and trail guides available to encourage people to utilize the natural beauty in Hopewell. She said that she wants to update the property, tentatively identified as 64 East Broad Street, that will house the potential boutique so that the landscaping and building will better complement the neighborhood.

Kennedy asked if the businesses would be micro or regular size. “Because we are partnering with Tara, a traditional dispensary,” answered Kumar. 

Kumar and her husband, Rosenstock, are partnering on the project with Tara Hopper, who has experience in the industry in Massachusetts. The difference between a traditional dispensary and a micro dispensary is size; micros can have no more than 10 employees at one time, a physical plant of no more than 2,500 square feet; and acquire no more than 1,000 pounds of usable cannabis (or the equivalent amount in other forms) each month.

The Council discussed the number of licenses that should be made available and when and how to make the application process stringent enough so that they can be very selective about choosing the right fit for the town.

Joanna Slagle, Borough Planner, said that the application can be designed in a way where the Council can draw a line in the sand. It can require a criteria and scoring system set up ahead in addition to the high standards put forth by the State.

Kennedy asked the Council, “Do we want to change to one or keep it at two dispensaries?”

Mackie said, “we have two potential uses. We want a license for one of each in business, or was it either? One for dispensary and one for delivery?”

Slagle replied: “Two for dispensary and no limit for deliveries.”

“Hopewell residents could get deliveries from out-of-town. We wouldn’t need a delivery service. Is there an incentive to have a delivery service in town?” asked Kennedy.

Kumar urged the Council to make site plans a part of a municipal endorsement in order to make the application process more competitive. She said Lambertville has made this a part of their endorsement process, because it helps the municipality maintain control over the process, rather than relying on the first come first serve process of giving the license to whoever gets State approval first..

Anzano asked if the ordinance could be introduced with the understanding that people will have time to look at it and share their opinions.

Michelle Hovan, Borough Administrator, said, “It’s uncommon to share, but I guess we can.”

The Council voted in favor of introducing ordinance 859 and soliciting public comment.

In other business, Hovan said that the Borough had applied for new curbing on East Broad Street in 2019, which wasn’t approved then; however, she has submitted the application again now that the states are getting money as part of the federal infrastructure law.

In a public session at the beginning of the meeting, Borough resident Alicia Waltman approached the Councilboard and said, “my one idea is, I believe it would be really beneficial to change the timing of our lights so that when people cross the street, no cars move. I almost get hit once a month. Add ten seconds to each red light when people are crossing.”

Waltman suggested that all three lights function in this way. She said that children who stay after school to play with friends often walk home after the crossing guards have left, and she worries that a child will get hit while returning home from school if the crosswalks are not made safer.

Councilmember Ryan Kennedy responded that Borough Pedestrian Bike and Safety Advisory Committee (PBSAC) has very similar ideas in its draft plan, and that those recommendations will be coming before Council soon. The Council has also been asking for new equipment that would allow that type of signaling since 2019.

Anzano said a component of something similar also is pending before the County now.

Mackie said that unacceptable levels of PFOS had been found in well number four in the past. The amount of PFOS in the well has frequently teetered on the highest level of what is acceptable. The newest, unsubmitted results are once again testing in the acceptable range, however Mackie said that he plans to seek funding for treatment from the infrastructure bill money so that the town can continue to use that well with confidence in its safety.

The Council ended the meeting noting that the next meeting will be held on September 9 rather than the first Thursday of the month.

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