The borough ordinance lays the groundwork for all six classes of New Jersey cannabis business to locate along the state highway corridor, but actual facilities could be years off.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 7, 2021
Although recreational cannabis businesses are still on a distant horizon for South Jersey, on Tuesday night, Collingswood took its first steps toward clearing a path to welcome them.
Borough commissioners signed off on the first reading of an ordinance amending the local redevelopment plan to add six classes of cannabis business—cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, retail, and delivery—to the list of conditionally approved uses within designated highway business districts (HBDs) and highway industrial districts (HIDs) along Route 130.
Cannabis businesses seeking to operate in Collingswood would also be required to come to terms with the borough government on a redevelopment agreement before being allowed to open.
Additionally, and in a separate ordinance outlining the taxation of cannabis in the borough, Collingswood would receive 2 percent of all sales from cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers, and 1 percent from cannabis wholesalers.
Other restrictions outlined in the amendment to the redevelopment plan include:
- No cannabis business may be accessible by vehicle from any residential street.
- Cannabis businesses may not be located within 100 feet of a residential zone, school, church, child care center, or public park.
- No alcohol or tobacco may be sold on the premises of a cannabis business, nor is onsite consumption of food, beverages, or cannabis permitted there.
- Cannabis paraphernalia may not be visibly displayed from the exterior of the building.
- Cannabis business signage may not include “any visual representation of cannabis or paraphernalia,” nor may any such business feature exterior advertisements for cannabis (neither in general nor any specific brand), nor of paraphernalia.
- Cannabis businesses must be properly ventilated so as to not give off an odor to anyone within 25 feet.
- Cannabis businesses must submit a detailed security plan to the borough police chief and Commissioner of Public Safety, including record-keeping and auditing procedures, as well as measures to protect visitors, vendors, and staff from “criminal activity, unsafe conditions, and incidents of nuisance and harassment.”
- Retail cannabis businesses must offer one parking space per 100 square-feet of gross floor area; all other cannabis businesses must offer one parking space per 800 square-feet of gross floor area.
Commissioners said the decision was structured to enable them to retain the greatest amount of local control over cannabis businesses in town without yet knowing what state rules will govern them. Those regulations are anticipated to be handed down by the state cannabis regulatory commission by August 15; however, the deadline for communities across New Jersey to opt into the cannabis business is August 21.
“This is something that I never thought we’d be doing, but this is something we’re moving ahead with,” Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said at Tuesday’s meeting of the borough government.
“We’re in a position where we don’t know what the rules are yet, but we have to either opt in or opt out,” Maley said. “We’re opting in, and we’ve done it in a way, in an area that we think it makes sense.”
Maley also said that the language of the ordinance “can be changed very easily,” and that the borough “wanted people in the industry to be aware that we are opting in.”
“It’s going to be huge competition for where these things go,” he said. “When those very few licenses come out for the first few years, it’s going to be mayhem. We should get that cash in the door.”
Local officials have already been approached by a few cannabis businesses considering setting up shop in the borough, Maley said.
Some “have an interest in the Teamsters [Local 676] building,” the mayor said; a property at 101 West Crescent Boulevard that offers an attractive amount of parking for a high-volume business.
Acknowledging that some residents have asked why the borough wouldn’t allow a cannabis business to open up within the Collingswood central business district, the mayor noted that, among those who have approached the borough government to discuss the prospect, “no one’s expressed interest in a 1,500 square-foot space.”
Commissioner Rob Lewandowski described the stance of the borough government as “moving cautiously” through uncharted territory.
“It is really easy to expand and change things to be more permissive, but once you allow this, and people have opened up shops, and they’re not doing what you thought they’d do, it’s really hard to rein it back in,” he said.
Lewandowski said he’s “hoping that we can find attractive businesses to invest in the [Route] 130 corridor,” which he described as “an area that has been sort of underutilized and overlooked.”
“It’s an area that, if done right, you can have a really important regional business there that is paying taxes to the borough,” he said.
After its initial reading, the ordinance will proceed to the borough planning board for a statutory review. The board will consider the suitability of the proposed regulations in the context of the Collingswood redevelopment plan before the measure heads for a second reading at the commissioners’ August 2021 meeting.
Collingswood will also host a town forum to hear broader public comment on the cannabis issue July 14 at the borough community center.
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