GREEN — The township’s medical marijuana law will be discussed Monday by the Green Township Committee but only during the committee’s executive session, which is closed to the public.
The public, which maintains concerns that a medical marijuana cultivator could end up at Trinca Airport and within a Drug Free School Zone, can speak about the topic during the meeting’s public comment period. However, Green Township’s Clerk/Administrator Mark Zschack said Friday that Green’s medical marijuana ordinance amendment is not on the committee’s agenda for a public hearing Monday. Zschack said the Township Committee may add the ordinance to the Feb. 19 meeting agenda for another public hearing.
The ordinance has come under fire since it was originally passed on July 15 to revise the agricultural-industrial AI-10 zone’s regulations, permitting medical marijuana cultivation in a zone stretching from Brighton Road to past Creek Road and cutting through Airport and Whitehall roads. Trinca Airport, slated to close Sept. 1, is within that zone, sparking concerns from residents that a medical marijuana cultivator could end up on that property.
At a standing-room-only public hearing to revise the township’s medical marijuana ordinance and tighten its language on Jan. 20, the Township Committee voted 3-1 to table the action and said it would be up for discussion again Monday. At the hearing, questions were raised about a number of topics, including if permitting a cultivator at the Trinca Airport site would violate the Drug Free School Zone law. Audience members at that meeting argued that the Trinca property in the zone is near a school bus stop and route, which is encompassed into the Drug Free School Zone law.
According to Monday’s agenda, the discussion on the medical marijuana law will take place in closed session under “attorney-client privilege.”
More about the passage of the original ordinance
The Land Use Board recommended particular points for the original ordinance, which were not included in that law, but were in the amended, revised ordinance that was up for public hearing on Jan. 20.
“At the time (of the first ordinance approval), the Township Committee wanted to have an ordinance on the books to allow for the possibility for the next round of medical marijuana cultivator licenses to be issued,” Zschack said Friday. “The potential revenue (of this type of industry) was hard to pass up.”
The township, Zschack said, was exploring a range of options to add ratables in the township, including at Trinca Airport, which it owns. Zschack said the airport has not been profitable.
Prior to the July 15 passage of the original AI-10 zone amendment ordinance to accommodate medical marijuana cultivation, Green’s Land Use Board Attorney David Burton Brady offered recommendations to the Township Committee on what specifications should be included to the ordinance.
According to a letter from Brady to the Township Committee dated July 12 obtained by the New Jersey Herald through the Open Public Records Act, Brady outlined 16 recommendations from the Ordinance Subcommittee, of which the Township Committee only implemented one — to change the wording from “medical cannabis” to “medical marijuana” — into its July 15 ordinance. Brady wrote to the Township Committee again on Sept. 13, and stated that the Land Use Board voted unanimously on Sept. 12 to ask the committee to revisit the ordinance for amendment with the additional recommendations.
Medical marijuana cultivator applications and other uses for Trinca
Residents have raised concerns about Trinca being developed for a medical marijuana cultivation business. Following the approval of the ordinance on July 15, then-Mayor Daniel Conkling wrote three letters in August in support of businesses to accompany their applications to the state to operate medical marijuana cultivation facilities. Current Mayor Margaret “Peg” Phillips said during the Jan. 20 meeting that those applications are in process with the state, with the application process presently on hold; and those applicants are not guaranteed approval.
According to the letters obtained by the New Jersey Herald, Conkling wrote two on Aug. 13 for Etain LLC of Vernon and Gladius LLC of Fredon. Although block and lot numbers were not included in these letters, in an Aug. 20 letter supporting an application for Panacea Botanicals of Hoboken, Conkling referenced Block 19, Lots 15 and 15.01, which are two of three Trinca land tracts at 59.5 acres and 31 acres.
A letter from a municipality is required as part of the application.
However, medical marijuana cultivator businesses are not the only ones the municipality is exploring for Trinca. Letters dated June 12 from Trinca’s Manager Peter Sklannik Jr. to the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration reference a solar panel project, indicating the township was evaluating the developer’s proposal for use. Sklannik’s letters did not indicate there were plans to close Trinca and instead, outlined to the developer the panels could not create a glare or other hazards for pilots and must be given a “determination of non-hazard” designation by the FAA. In his letters, Sklannik also told the DOT and FAA officials a solar facility would not be permitted on sensitive land on or adjacent to the airport.
Zschack said Friday that the Township Committee has directed its professionals to begin the process to create requests for proposals for potential solar project bidders that may be able to lease Trinca’s tracts directly from the township, which does not plan to sell the property.
Drug Free School Zone law argument
At the Jan. 20 meeting attorney Christopher Izzo, who lives in Bridgewater and accompanied his sister — a Green resident — to the meeting, argued that if a medical marijuana cultivation facility was to be placed at Trinca Airport, it would be in violation of the Drug Free School Zone law, as well as regulations under the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on July 2. Izzo said a rule under the Jake Honig Act states an alternative treatment center or ATC — a classification that marijuana cultivators fall under — cannot be within the Drug Free School Zone. That zone is a 1,000 foot area around an elementary or secondary school building and property, which includes school bus stops and, he claims, the bus route.
Izzo said Friday in an interview with the New Jersey Herald that in addition to the revised ordinance permitting a cultivator within 400 feet from a neighboring resident’s house, both ordinances permit medical marijuana cultivators within the Trinca Airport tracts, which are less than 1,000 feet from a school bus stop and route in the adjacent neighborhood.
“You can’t have an ATC so close to where kids are picking up the school bus route,” Izzo said.
Jennifer Jean Miller can also be reached by phone at: 973-383-1230; on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JMillerNJH and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JMillerNJH.