With just under two months remaining until the mandated deadline of Aug. 21 for municipalities to decide whether or not they will permit sale of cannabis, Cherry Hill Township council continued to offer its perspective, while fielding opinions from members of the public.
Garden State towns are faced with two main choices: opting in by the above date means that locale is locked in to allowing licenses for a period of five years. Towns which elect to opt out are able to opt in at any time. Should a municipality take no action by late August, all licenses will be automatically permitted, with no ability to opt out for five years.
Council President David Fleisher indicated in previous meetings that his colleagues would lean toward opting out initially, waiting to see how other municipalities answer questions of land use and public safety, before opting in. During council’s June 28 session, he did not indicate any change in that stance.
Despite leaving public comment specifically for residents to speak their piece on the matter, only Anne Einhorn weighed in, saying: “I’m just going to be flat-out honest here: I think we’re missing a golden opportunity to increase some tax revenue.”
Einhorn further averred, acknowledging her support because she is confident in township governance to properly regulate cannabis sales and location of such.
Councilwoman Carole Roskoph offered that she agreed with Einhorn “on a personal level” as she recalled how Cherry Hill residents voted almost 3 to 1 in favor of marijuana legalization last November.
“It is complicated and we have to look at all the pieces of the puzzle. It’s an opportunity we cannot ignore,” Roskoph stated.
Councilwoman Jennifer Apell made a public plea for residents to contact her, in the meantime, to make their voices heard. Councilman William A. Carter III added that he had been engaging his neighbors to offer their thoughts in recent weeks, as well.
Councilwoman Michele Golkow said her own investigation revealed members of the public are generally in favor of cannabis sales, disclosing, “I think we’re fortunate here in Cherry Hill because of our fiscal health. We’re not in dire need of revenue that would come from cannabis.”
Fleisher added that he believed it is not a matter of if, but of when, the township will opt in.
“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. We are lucky … to not have to pass it quickly and at all costs. That cost could potentially be the impact on our neighborhoods on issues of safety, issues of the environment. And we’re not prepared to cut corners in that regard,” he said.
Fleisher further indicated it would be likely that council would take some sort of action at their first public meeting next month.
In the midst of her customary remarks, Mayor Susan Shin Angulo revealed to the public that for the 10th consecutive year, there would be no increase to municipal taxes.
Continuing a policy begun under previous municipal leader Chuck Cahn, Angulo indicated that more information about the upcoming fiscal year’s budget would be available later in the summer as the process toward approving a finalized document continues.
“We will continue to manage the township budget responsibly while making critical investments to public safety, infrastructure, roads, parks, historical sites and open space,” Angulo said.
In response to a question asking to specify, between the tax amount and the tax rate, which of the two would not be raised, Township Business Administrator Erin Patterson Gill confirmed the tax rate will not increase.
In other news:
- Council unanimously approved a resolution to formalize the location of future council meetings for the remainder of the calendar year, in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act. As of its next open session, Monday, July 12, council is expected to gather within the N. John Amato council chambers with members of the public welcome. It will mark the first time since March of 2020 that township governance and residents would be allowed to gather in that location. Fleisher said that council is still working out logistics to continue online recording, but those plans would be revealed before the next session.
- The governing body also passed a resolution authorizing the township to enter into a shared services agreement with Camden County for sidewalk and traffic signal improvements to the intersection of Evesham and Burnt Mill roads.
- Two residents have been named to the township’s zoning board: Chris Bruner was reappointed as a regular member for a four-year term expiring June 30, 2025, while Anju Pejavara was appointed as an alternate member for a two-year term expiring June 30, 2023.
- Council Vice President Brian Bauerle was absent.