Cannabis Store Seeks Move Putting It Closer to Town SchoolsMay 16, 2023
The Mayor and Council of Harrison, New Jersey, have on the Tuesday, May 16, 2023 meeting agenda a resolution to allow a marijuana business to be established in the 701 North Frank E. Rodgers Blvd Mini Mall. This development which has not been advertised to the public until yesterday’s late release of the Mayor & Council meeting agenda should spark a discussion and concern due to its proximity to local schools. Green Origin Solutions LLC, whose members according to public records are OM A. Patel and Shivani A. Patel, and with a mailing address in Iselin, NJ, is the company that previously sought approval for a marijuana business across town at 615 South Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. Mayor James Fife and the members of the Harrison Town Council approved the South Rodgers application.
The Proposed Location and Concerns
The proposed site for the marijuana business, 701 North Frank E. Rodgers Blvd, is situated just three blocks away from the Harrison Lincoln Elementary School and two blocks from the East Newark Public Elementary School. The proximity to these educational institutions should raise concerns from Mayor Fife, a former teacher, and Council members, two of which are employed by the Harrison Board of Education, regarding the potential impact on students and the community.
Existing Cannabis Retail Regulations
The Town of Harrison has an existing ordinance allowing the retail sale of cannabis but restricts it to specific areas. These areas include the neighborhood commercial zone (Harrison Avenue and Frank E. Rodgers Blvd) and the waterfront redevelopment zone. These zoning restrictions aim to ensure that cannabis businesses are appropriately located and regulated within the town. Although the Ordinance designates an area where the businesses can be located it does not mean that the Mayor & Council have to approve a retail sale location just because it is within the designated area.
Previous Applications and Location Considerations
In February 2022, two separate entities, Cookies Harrison LLC and Green Origin Solutions LLC, applied for the establishment of retail stores at 615 South Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. This location falls within the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Zone, and the nearest school, Washington Middle School, is approximately eight blocks away. The applications for the prior location were eventually approved, leading to the anticipation of legal cannabis sales in Harrison, as previously highlighted in an article titled Harrison: Coming Soon Legal Cannabis.
Community Response and Deliberations
The proposal to establish a marijuana business in the 701 North Frank E. Rodgers Blvd Mini Mall should trigger mixed reactions within the community. Supporters argue that regulated cannabis businesses can contribute to the town's economy through increased tax revenue and job creation.
Opponents, on the other hand, express concerns about the potential negative impact on the community, particularly on young students. They stress the need for more comprehensive evaluations of the proposed location's proximity to schools, considering potential risks related to substance exposure and the perception of normalizing cannabis use.
The Mayor and Council will need to carefully deliberate on the proposed establishment, taking into account various perspectives and evaluating potential consequences. Balancing economic development with the well-being of the community, especially the safety and welfare of students, is of paramount importance.
The proximity of the proposed location to nearby schools should raise concerns from the Mayor and Council and among residents. The Mayor & Council may want to table the resolution on for the Tuesday, May 16, 2023, Mayor & Council meeting since there is a lot on the Agenda including the 2023 Town of Harrison Budget Hearing which will not allow sufficient time to discuss the proposed location change. In addition, the Mayor & Council has not provided sufficient public notice of the proposed change of location. The mayor and council need to consider all perspectives and carefully assess the potential impact of this development on the community including input from the Chief of Police and the Harrison Police Department.
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