More than 100 residents joined the virtual Voorhees Township Committee meeting on Aug. 9 for a public hearing on the municipality’s marijuana ordinance.
Though the measure to allow cannabis sales was approved 3 to 1 — with Deputy Mayor Michelle Nocito abstaining — it was not without a lengthy session where at least 25 residents voiced their concerns about it. Most were in support of the ordinance, but a majority disagreed with its stipulation that all classes of cannabis business (cultivator, manufacturer, wholesale, distribution, retailer and delivery) would be permitted along Route 73.
Resident Edward Ferruggia of the Sturbridge Lakes community asked the committee to consider an amendment to the measure that would prohibit all classes of cannabis business along both sides of 73, but that only permitting retail businesses would also be acceptable. That sentiment was echoed by other concerned neighbors from Sturbridge Lakes who requested that the section of 73 between Signal Hill and William Feather drives remain free of cannabis business.
There were several other shared concerns between residents, including that 1,000 feet of distance between cannabis businesses and schools is too short, that traffic would be increased on Route 73 if the sales are allowed and that an uptick in crime could occur.
Residents Gregory Offt and Scott Reilly asked Police Chief Louis Bordi whether he saw the addition of dispensaries and other cannabis businesses as impacting the town in a negative way, noting the increase of burglary and theft, and whether the police are prepared.
“I think we are prepared, and we will certainly keep a watchful eye on everything that’s going to happen around the legal distribution of marijuana in our town,” Bordi answered. “Right now, I feel very comfortable where we are to handle it.
“In talking with other towns that have facilities, it hasn’t been a strain on their resources thus far, so we’ll continue to watch it,” he added. “I know in other states where you see crime spikes because of it, they’re in urban environments, which is not like what we have, so we’ll just have to stay active with it.”
During the meeting, the committee also passed the second ordinance on cannabis that allows the township to tax classes 1, 2 and 5 of sales, and introduced a measure that would amend the first cannabis zoning ordinance to include 1,000 feet of required distance from playgrounds, but excluding highways.
Although the ordinance has been introduced, committee members said it could undergo changes to take community concerns into consideration before it has a second reading and public hearing.
In other news:
— The committee also introduced several other ordinances on first reading to correct prior measures. They include increasing the number of licenses to keep backyard hens from 25 to 40, and allowing a fence to be 6 feet instead of 5, among other regulations. Another ordinance would establish a bus stop at the corner of Lafayette Avenue and Haddonfield-Berlin Road, though Township Administrator Larry Spellman did not know when it would become active and ready for use.
All ordinances mentioned are available for viewing at https://voorheesnj.com/, under the Aug. 9 agenda. The next council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13; it will be virtual.