By PETE WALTON
By a unanimous vote, the Neptune City Borough Council has approved an ordinance which limits the legal sale of marijuana to the highway commercial zone in the borough’s westernmost corner.
The revised ordinance puts an end to proposed plans for cannabis retail sales near West Sylvania and Steiner avenues.
The borough Land Use Board reviewed the ordinance before it was voted upon by the council. The board said that it was in compliance with the borough’s master plan.
The council previously limited the number of potential cannabis retail outlets to two.
However, upon questioning by a resident, Mayor Andrew Wardell indicated that it would be very difficult for two applicants to meet all of the conditions imposed by the revised ordinance.
The new measure says that any cannabis business must have entrances and exits on Route 33 and would not be permitted “within 200 feet of a borough district zoned as residential.”
“The restrictions that were put in there would make it, I think, nearly impossible for two [cannabis businesses] to exist in that zone because it does say that they can’t be within a thousand feet of an existing cannabis retailer,” Wardell said. “By looking at [the] highway commercial [zone], which is the only place where [cannabis businesses are] allowed to go, I for the life of me couldn’t find anywhere that would fit all of the specifications under the zoning that would allow that to exist in the same zoned area of highway commercial without needing some sort of variance.”
The mayor said he expected that the borough would have to reissue resolutions of support, two of which were unanimously approved by the council when two proposed retailers sought to locate their operations on West Sylvania Avenue near the borough’s eastern border.
“I think it would be difficult for us to be able to give two resolutions of support based off of that knowledge moving forward,” Wardell said.
Borough Attorney Jodi Howlett said she could not be more specific about possible plans to reopen the application process because of “a legal issue.”
In December, attorneys for The Cannabis Shoppe LLC said the company was not given a chance to make a presentation to the committee which the borough established to review applications for the marijuana retail licenses.
State Superior Court Judge David Bauman has rescheduled the date for oral arguments in the case via video conference to Wed., April 26.
Another suit regarding the borough’s efforts to license cannabis retailers is still listed as an active case, according to state records.
In a complaint also filed in December, Steiner Avenue residents Eugene P. O’Connell and Melida Rodas said the council’s previous cannabis ordinance was “arbitrarily, capriciously, improperly and illegitimately adopted.”
O’Connell spoke at the council meeting earlier this week before the vote was taken. He urged citizens to “be very vigilant” if the council should propose additional amendments to the cannabis ordinance.
“We have to be very careful in looking at the land use board agendas, because even though the ordinance has been amended, a retailer could always ask for a variance,” O’Connell said.
Also at the meeting, Council President Brian Thomas said the council would strengthen its efforts to press the state for answers about traffic safety where Route 35 joins the eastern end of West Sylvania Avenue.
A number of residents expressed concerns at the meeting about a pattern of serious automobile accidents in the area.