Questions arise from ‘alternative treatment center’ ordinance

Council takes criticism from residents into consideration ahead of adoption

In previous meetings this year, it was made clear that Monroe Township is open to having cannabis facilities break ground in the municipality. At the most recent council meeting it took steps toward its goal.

An ordinance was introduced on first reading that would allow “alternative treatment centers,” specifically dispensary, cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis, to come to town so long as the center has at least one acre of land and has at least 100 feet of buffer to residential zones.

There have been rumblings that a “Walmart-sized” facility was looking for a home on the Black Horse Pike near Antony and Cleopatra caterers. Owner of Antony and Cleopatra’s, Anthony Langella, spoke at the meeting against the proposed ordinance.

“The adjacent manufacturing, processing facility will have a negative impact on our catering business. We offer outdoor events on our property,” he said.

Events include marriages, nuptial ceremonies, Girl and Boy Scout banquets, baby showers, sweet 16s, and church and athletic banquets, in addition to other public functions.

“The proposed Walmart-sized facility will unquestionably lower property values in our area where businesses, homes, churches, schools and commercial enterprises like ours are located on the Black Horse Pike,” Langella continued.

Other reasons Langella cited were the noise from vehicles and machinery at the proposed facility; an uptick in crime due to the dark and heavily wooded area that would create more security and other safety concerns that, according to Langella, would “change the character of the neighborhood;” the pungent odor that can carry in the wind and the close proximity to White Hall Elementary School.

According to Langella, the proposed parcel of land is within 1,000 feet of the school.

“This is not an appropriate site for cannabis production, manufacturing, storage, shipping or so on,” he said.

He added there are plenty of other suitable locations in the 48-square mile town. He said in Egg Harbor Township, a cannabis facility called “Compassionate Care” is located in an industrial park. He said an industrial park would be better because it’s away from homes and the public and not on a busy roadway like the Black Horse Pike.

Council Vice President Joe Marino cleared the air, stating no applicant has come before council or any board in town. Councilman Cody Miller expanded on Marino’s point.

“We didn’t want to leave it up to chance for an applicant to come in and get a variance to do what they want to do,” Miller said. “The applicant themselves, personally I’ve had no involvement with them, but some of the things you’re alluding to, they can’t be within 1,000 feet of the school district. If that’s the case, the state statute says they can’t do that, so regardless of what we do, they’re not even permitted to operate or get approvals or license from the state,”

The proposed ordinance, which was up for first reading and publication, would give the township the ability to control what goes where. He added that even if a company earned a certificate and is approved by the state, it still has to go through the local planning board that still has the right to decline it.

“The reason we did this is because we didn’t want to leave it up to chance. We didn’t want to leave it to the whim of the board for them to say ‘We permit this.’ We wanted to clearly spell it out,” Miller said.

Jeffrey Baron, the attorney representing Langella, wants council to review the location next to Langella’s business.

“Questioning the location, not questioning every location, in this location, looking at what’s around it. There should be a little scrutiny given to see if there should be additional conditions imposed so it doesn’t cause any detriment to those folks,” Baron said.

The first reading of the ordinance was completed by council but could possibly be reviewed prior to second reading. Solicitor John Trimble said he has a few questions after listening to Langella and Baron.

In other news:

  • Cecil Fire Company gave a presentation to council about renovating its fire station. Its proposed renovation came in at the $2.5 million mark they were given at a previous meeting. Marino said this is a project that has been in the works since 2017 and has gone through three rounds of designs to bring the cost down.

“I think these guys have done, design wise, the best they could with what they had to work with,” Marino said.

He added council should be cognizant of future growth in the Cecil area as it will need a fire station to handle the future growth in that area.

  • At a previous meeting, residents Tim Brown and James Deckard brought up issues in the Forest Hills section of town. Councilman Greg Wolfe reported the roads department had it cleaned the next day.

“They were very happy and pleased with the response,” Wolfe said.

  • A proclamation was issued to Michele Schreffler-Perez and the “City of Angels” for their work combating the opioid epidemic and providing resources for families who are suffering with substance abuse. “City of Angels” and the township entered a memorandum of understanding this year to open a resource recovery center in town hall. Schreffler-Perez and her team at “City of Angels” were present to accept the proclamation.
  • The next council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9. The work session will begin at 7 p.m. with the regular meeting at 8 p.m.. Both sessions are open to the public.