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RED BANK: CANNABIS SHOP OK MAKES THREE

red-bank-45-north-bridge-060723-500x309-3895487Monteverde NJ, at 45 North Bridge Avenue,  hopes to strike a deal for 11 borough-owned spaces at the bend in Morford Place (marked in red at right). (Google Map. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919Though none have yet opened, Red Bank now has three approved cannabis shops, following action by the planning board Monday night.

With an OK for Monteverde NJ to convert a former dry-cleaning shop, two pot retailers could open just steps apart on North Bridge Avenue.

red-bank-phil-maletto-060523-1-500x375-5359813North Bridge Avenue homeowner Phil Maletto questions Monteverde co-owner Devin Liles, far right, at Monday’s planning board meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

red-bank-45-bridge-010622-1-220x146-4682255Monteverde, owned by Elizabeth Egan and Devin Liles, went to the board holding a previously unreported, September, 2022, local zoning approval to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 45 North Bridge Avenue, at the corner of Brower Street.

Interior construction is nearly complete, said applicant’s attorney Richard Wells.

Now, intending to add adult recreational sales, the business needed to persuade the board it met all 12 requirements for a conditional use under Red Bank’s 2021 cannabis zoning ordinance.

One that needed to be resolved, said Wells, was parking.

“It’s our position initially that we don’t require a parking variance,” Wells told the board, “but we’re trying to go above and beyond to make sure we address all potential scenarios.”

The shop can provide, onsite, five of the nine parking spots the borough claims is needed, he told the board.

Up to 11 more spots would be provided off-street, in a remote strip of borough-owned spaces, located between Morford Place and Riverside Avenue, if Monteverde is successful in persuading the municipality to lease it those spaces, Wells said.

That would give the shop 16 spots.

“We’re in the process of finalizing that lease with the parking utility,” Wells said. “We believe we’re close to getting that done.”

Among other accommodations, Liles agreed to extend fencing to shield the shop’s next-door neighbor, a North Bridge Avenue house owned by Phil Maletto.

Maletto told the board he had “a big problem” with the shop being operating until 10 p.m., as planned. Liles said the hours could be shortened if the volume of business did not require staying open that late.

The application was approved on a 4-3 vote. Yes votes were cast by Chairman Dan Mancuso, Councilman Michael Ballard, Lou DiMento and councilperson-elect Kristina Ballard. Juanita Lewis, Barbara Boas and councilperson-elect David Cassidy voted no, with Cassidy noting an objection to the hours of operation.

Obtaining the borough parking spaces was not set as a condition of approval, but Monteverde is obligated to pursue them, said Mancuso. But the approval requires that Monteverde’s employees not park their cars on Bridge Avenue or Brower Street, and that Monteverde “employ all methods available” to ensure customers do not queue up outside, Mancuso said.

What about those remote remote parking spaces?

Historically, permits for the spots have been issued, but not in recent years, “as there has been no real demand,” interim Administrator Darren McConnell told redbankgreen via email Wednesday.

He confirmed that the borough has had discussions with Monteverde about its request, and while an agreement has not been reached, “it is still a possibility.”

Monteverde is now the the second cannabis retail on North Bridge Avenue to win board OK: the first was one greenlighted in March for the space now occupied by the China Moon restaurant in the Crate’s Liquors strip mall.

In addition, last month, the board approved a plan by Canopy Crossroad to open at 9 West Street, next door to Red Bank Liquors.

Before any weed shops can open, they also must pass muster with the borough Cannabis Review Board, which was created by ordinance April 12 but has not yet been formed, and with the council itself.

Yet another business, Plug Naturals LLC, has a pending plan for a shop at 156 West Front Street – just around the corner from Canopy Crossroad – with hearing scheduled for July 17.

Another weed shop, Garden at Red Bank LLC, is eyeing the long-vacant former Exxon Station at 80 Rector Place, just steps from the Monteverde building, an attorney told the borough council in March. The site was previously approved for a six-story Hampton Inn that was never built.

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