EATONTOWN – The owner of an irregular-shaped lot could face an uphill challenge if she proceeds with a plan to build a cannabis cultivation and distribution facility on Industrial Way West in the borough’s business park zone. 

The main obstacles are threefold: the lot might be too small to build on, an adjacent property owner plans to object and the licenses are becoming competitive in the borough as the state nears the launch of the adult-use recreational cannabis industry.  

A grandfather provision, however, may solve the lot size problem. 

Rita Ruggieri of Holmdel brought her concept for a three-story facility to the Planning Board for an informal review on Monday. In an informal review, the board takes no action, but can give nonbinding feedback on a concept. 

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If Ruggieri proceeds, she would need to submit a completed site plan to the board for final approval. She would also need the Borough Council’s endorsement to obtain state licenses for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing. Ruggieri said she has a conditional approval from the state.  

The licensing is competitive in Eatontown, which established the zoning for the adult-use recreational cannabis industry last August

While the borough approved up to three cannabis retail licenses on select portions of Routes 35 and 36, it also permitted up to two licenses each for cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor on Industrial Way West. 

Mayor Anthony Talerico Jr. said at least four other applicants are seeking licensing on Industrial Way West for cannabis, along with Ruggieri. Talerico did not say what types of licenses are being sought.    

The adjacent property owner also made it clear they would object to the facility. Lastly, board Chairman Mark Woloshin said he’s “not thrilled” with the size of the building being proposed on the lot, which is three acres too small for development, according to the borough code for the business park zone.    

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Bernard Reilly is representing the owner of 600, 608 and 612 Industrial Way West. The property’s belong to the Wolf family, owners of Motion Systems, makers of actuators, devices that are similar to hydraulic cylinders, and are used in everything from car seats to dental chairs as well as in the operating room. 

Reilly said his client tried to purchase the property from a prior owner who he said obtained the obtuse-triangular-shaped property from a tax foreclosure. The property was original a large lot created in 1968 but was made irregular when the state acquired part of it to build Route 18 in the early 1970s.   

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Reilly said his client is still interested in buying the lot, which is about three-quarters of an acre, and attaching it to their property, rather than seeing a building “shoehorned” onto it.

Ruggeiri would need several variances for the facility because developers need a minimum lot area of four acres to build in the industrial zone. It is also deficient by over 100 feet in both the lot width and on one of the side setbacks. 

Her attorney John Anderson, however, said the property could be exempt from the four-acre minimum due to that fact that the lot was created under different zoning rules that were established in 1953. He said the lot was grandfathered into those rules. 

“We’d likely ask the zoning officer for treatment as an existing isolated undersize lot in a grandfather provision in your ordinance,” Anderson said.

When Jersey Shore native Dan Radel is not reporting the news, you can find him in a college classroom where he is a history professor. Reach him @danielradelapp; 732-643-4072; 


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