Cannabis zoning plan questioned by planning board
By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Planning Board members, charged with making recommendations on where cannabis businesses can be located in Montclair, have raised concerns over the equity of where the council has proposed allowing them.
The council approved on first reading an amended ordinance that zones two retail marijuana shops and five other cannabis establishments to certain areas, mainly in the southern portion of town. The final reading is scheduled for Aug. 10.
Towns are facing the state’s deadline of Aug. 21 to either bar recreational marijuana sales, or to allow them and set up regulations for where and when they can operate, and how many establishments can be licensed.
According to the ordinance, retail cannabis establishments will be zoned to Bloomfield Avenue and a small section along Lackawanna Plaza street between Greenwood and Bloomfield avenues in the C1 Central Business zone. The Central Business zone is located between St. Luke’s Place/Francis Place to the west and Elm Street/Grove Street to the east, and between Elm Street/Grove Street to the west and the border of Montclair and Glen Ridge to the east. The town will allow for two retail marijuana licenses.
Medical marijuana establishments, which had not been regulated, would be required to be located above the first floor in the C1 district since windows need to be blacked out to protect the privacy of their customers.
Of the town’s seven Neighborhood Commercial zones, scattered throughout Montclair, cannabis retailers will be allowed only on Valley Road between Walnut and James streets.
Montclair will allow for five other cannabis-related businesses — a cannabis delivery service, cannabis wholesaler, cannabis distributor, cannabis manufacturer and cannabis cultivator — all of which will be allowed in the C2 district, considered one of the industrial parts of Montclair, said Planner Janice Talley, and located in the Fourth Ward between Forest Street, Oak Place, Depot Square and Willard Place a bit beyond Pine Street, with the exception of Walnut Street. Although no retail will be allowed in the zone, medical marijuana establishments will be allowed.
For now the town will not allow for any on-premise marijuana consumption.
Planning Board member Carmel Loughman asked why no establishments will be allowed in Upper Montclair.
All of the businesses being zoned to “the south part of town rubs me the wrong way,” she said.
New board member Jeffrey Jacobson said he had trouble with the idea of not being able to purchase “fresh fruit but you can get fresh cannabis” at Lackawanna Plaza. Jacobson made it clear he was against any cannabis establishments in Montclair at all, since the federal government still classifies them as illegal.
All of the board members voiced concerns with parking and traffic, and with the 250-foot buffer between the establishments and places of learning that the council has set.
Talley said the retail shops will be required to provide parking of one space per 200 square feet of gross floor area.
The board charged Talley with penning recommendations to the council that include its concern over what it called an “inequity” of zoning the establishments to the southern portion of town only, that recommend a 500-foot buffer from schools as more appropriate, and that express concern over parking and traffic.