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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Latest Buzz: Just Say No Cannabis Farm in Frelinghuysen

Signs like this one are popping up around Frelinghuysen although the application does not indicate smokestacks. Photo by Joe Phalon.

A full house of Frelinghuysen residents made their feelings blunt: The don’t want a cannabis farm near a school.

At an uncharacteristically contentious meeting of the Township Committee April 17, more than 50 residents were on hand, most of whom opposed an application for cannabis cultivation on 30 acres along Route 94, a half-mile north of Frelinghuysen Elementary School.

While a number of residents had the opportunity to voice their opposition to the Township Committee, the actual decision lies with the Township Land Use Board, which is expected to hear testimony in regard to the application on May 6.

Before the public comment portion of the April 17 committee meeting, when residents had an opportunity to share their feelings on the application, Richard Beilin, the township attorney, advised the governing body and the residents at the meeting that it would be inappropriate for the members of the committee to comment on the application.

Little House on the Prairie

Frelinghuysen resident Kirk Perez said it would be inappropriate to site a cannabis farm near a school. The first time he came to Frelinghuysen and saw the school, he said, he thought he was in a different reality.

“This is the type of community that I would want to raise a family here,” Perez said. “I got to tell you, when I saw the school, I saw ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

But he said he felt that will be jeopardized by the proposed cannabis cultivation.

“This is not the image, in my opinion, (for) this beautiful town,” Perez said. “This place, should be protected like an endangered species.”

Proposed Site Plan and Application

The applicant, One Faith Wellness LLC, has applied for preliminary and final site plan approvals for its property at 720 Route 94, near the border of Fredon Township in Sussex County. The company is also applying for a bulk variance because their plans don’t meet zoning regulations requiring a minimum 50-foot setback between buildings.

They’ve proposed a setback of 1.5 feet between the greenhouses where the cannabis would be cultivated.

One Faith purchased the 30-acre property from the township last August at a public auction for $1.4 million. That bid was a half-million more than a bid from an earlier auction the previous May. That deal fell through when the buyer failed to make a 10 percent down payment by the end of day the auction was held.

The property, 30.68 acres located at 720 Route 94, just south of the county line, was rezoned earlier this year for commercial research, office and manufacturing. The property has 1,383 feet of frontage along Route 94 and is mostly farmland.

One Faith stated in its application that it believes an enclosed cannabis facility falls within permitted uses for the property.

The Land Use Board is expected to resume hearings on the application at its May 6 meeting at 7 p.m. While the meeting currently is listed to be held at the Municipal Building on Main Street, given the anticipated crowd, it may be moved to the Recreation Center on Lincoln Laurel Road.

Check the Land Use Board website for updates.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.