By JOHN T. WARD
A plan to accommodate all levels of cannabis businesses – from growth to retailing – advanced in Red Bank Monday night.
The borough planning board, meeting in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, gave the plan its seal of approval, finding no conflicts with the town’s Master Plan.
Following passage of referendum last November, New Jersey legalized cannabis in February, leaving municipalities to choose whether to allow or ban growth, processing, warehousing, distribution and sales of the drug. Towns that opt to ban any or all levels of cannabis businesses may not prohibit direct-to-consumer delivery services.
Unlike Little Silver, Fair Haven and other towns, where cannabis commerce has been banned, Red Bank officials have made plain their support for the industry. But where, exactly, to allow it in the 1.8-square-mile borough has proved a bit knotty. That’s because federal law still prohibits all aspects of the industry within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and public housing properties.
In July, the borough council introduced an ordinance specifying the answers, with an adoption vote expected August 18, three days before a state deadline. The planning board review was a required step in the process.
At the meeting, with two reporters and two residents in the audience, a plan based on a map created by community planning director Shawna Ebanks won near-unanimous approval.
The plan allows retail sales in a stretch of the Highway Business zone along Newman Springs Road; the Business Residential-1 zone; the CC-1 and CC-2 zones downtown; and the Waterfront Development zone.
Operations would be allowed only between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., and signage may not contain images of marijuana or paraphernalia or the words “weed” or “marijuana,” under the proposal.
Retail sales would be a conditional use, meaning applicants would be required to present their plans to the board.
Pre-retail uses would be permitted in portions of the industrial and light industrial zones off Bridge Avenue.
Board member David Cassidy was the sole holdout, noting that while federal law prohibits cannabis operations within 1,000 of publicly owned housing, there are homes within 100 feet of facilities where growth and storage may take place.
“I just don’t understand the logic allowing grow facility within 1,000 of non-public housing,” Cassidy said. Studies show that proximity to grow facilities reduces property values, while dispensaries raise them, he said.
He said a proposed growing facility on East Leonard Street is “literally within 100 feet” of homes. “I for one wouldn’t want one within 100 feet of my home.
“If those odors aren’t mitigated, they will have a horrible stench up to 1,500 yards from that facility,” he said. “I just don’t know that Red Bank is the right town to have grow facilities.”
Ebanks responded that that’s a decision for the council, adding that like stores, the industrial operations “do have to include some type of [odor] mitigation system.”
As per state law, the borough plans to impose a local excise retail tax of 2 percent and a wholesale tax of 1 percent.
The council vote will also address non-land-use issues related to cannabis, including where it can be smoked. Here’s the proposed ordinance: Red Bank Cannabis ordinance 080221