September 19th Meeting Summary
Last night we had a Council meeting. Here are the highlights.
The main event was a presentation for the Council on cannabis in NJ and how NJ municipalities can regulate it. As the public is aware, Verona has "opted out" of allowing any cannabis businesses, including dispensaries, in Verona. We were approached by Verona residents who were approved for a micro-license for a cannabis dispensary to re-consider the ban so that they could establish their business in Verona.
Our Township Attorney invited Ronald Mondello, an attorney specializing in NJ municipal cannabis law, to provide the Council with an overview of the current state of the NJ cannabis market. It was very informative, and the Council was able to ask very detailed questions. I encourage you to watch the presentation, which starts about 15 minutes into the meeting. In addition, Mr. Mondello has a website with similar information here: https://njmunicipalcannabis.com/. There was a lot of detail provided on the regulatory process, what the municipality has control of and what it does not, revenue potential from dispensaries ($180K to $240K per site), definitions and parameters of "microbusinesses", and how host community agreements could be structured.
In addition, Verona Police Chief Chris Kiernan addressed the Council (about 1 hr 15 min into the meeting) on some conversations he had with police chiefs in neighboring towns that have dispensaries. At this time, these communities have not experienced an increase in crime around these businesses or traffic issues, nor are they seeing quality of life issues. We then opened up the conversation to pubic comment (1 hr 19 min into the meeting), where we received a robust feedback.
We concluded this conversation that we had a lot to think about, and that it was important to first tackle the issue of whether or not we want to change the current ban on dispensaries and other cannabis businesses in town. If we do remove the ban, where would we zone these businesses, how many would we want to allow, and what other parameters would we want to place on these businesses? We will have that conversation as part of New Business at our next meeting on Monday, October 17th.
There were public comments made by the Verona residents that want to start their business and by their attorney (who spoke at the public comment session at the end of the meeting) regarding their desire to present their business plan to the Council and the public at the next meeting. Their micro-license does have time constraints to get a letter of support from a municipality. However, at the end of the day, the Council wants first to have this strategic and comprehensive conversation on whether or not we want to move forward with cannabis as a business before we get into the detail of any specific business proposals before us.
I know this is topic where residents have a lot of questions, concerns, and passionate views. It is important for you to send your comments and questions to the entire Council, which you can do so here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform. We want to hear your feedback.
We actually had other, really important topics covered last night besides this presentation. We were presented with our financial audit, which the public can review here: https://www.veronanj.org/budgetinfo. We had one corrective action that will be addressed with the employees that are responsible for purchasing to ensure that they fully understand the purchasing laws in NJ.
We passed an ordinance to allocate $25K in additional capital to the Town Hall ADA ramp re-construction, which started this week.
We introduced three ordinances. The first is to provide a supplemental bond of $800K for the pool improvements, partially offset by a $75K grant. The second was a re-introduction of the rezoning ordinance of Bloomfield Avenue from Montrose to South Prospect, to address some changes to the setbacks of the sidewalks, offsite parking requirements, and size of 3 bedroom affordable units. The final ordinance was on wireless telecommunication facilities, where we are making some minor changes, including the clarification of height restrictions on the facilities. Hearings on all three ordinances will be at our next meeting.
Under resolutions we approved contracts to repave the recycling center and for supplies for the water utility, re-appointed our temporary CFO Jennifer Muscara, and renewed our participation in the Sustainable Essex Alliance Energy Procurement Cooperative with Maplewood as the lead agency. We also made an appointment to the Neighborhood Traffic and Safety Advisory Board.
As always, please send any comments on what was discussed to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/council.