The planned HoneyGrove medical dispensary for the former Friendly’s Restaurant on Blackwood Clementon Road was Approved by Gloucester Township Planning on December 27th.
There were two members of the public there. A resident who attends many township meetings, and myself. That was it. Quite different than the September Zoning meeting!
This approval for HoneyGrove was based on medical use sales, it is their intent to eventually be approved for adult-use recreational cannabis sales.
The approval comes after Gloucester Township council amended the governing redevelopment plan to count roadways with four-lanes of travel as a buffer, overriding the proximity buffers related to residential housing or schools.
HoneyGrove had appeared before Zoning on September 28th, 2022 asking for approval. The need for the Zoning approval at the time was because a licensed pre-school was 814 feet away on the other side of Blackwood-Clementon Road, and the dispensary ordinance set at 1000 foot buffer.
With the ordinance change to designate four-lane roads such as Blackwood-Clementon Rd as a buffer, the dispensary project fit within the zoning guidelines and the project review was moved to the Planning Board where it was approved this week.
HoneyGrove stated in the meeting they will not offer drive-thru service. They are targeting an April opening (I’m going to bet on late Spring. It just never happens as fast as the new owners expect!).
I covered the HoneyGrove’s original denial in September, which has additional details.
Keep scrolling and reading for more details on the approval and ordinance change.
Ordinance Amendment and a Different Kind of Meeting
People are always trying to read into the intent of my articles. Residents, Developers and Government at different times accuse me of being against their stance. Sometimes my same article will multiple sides coming back at me!
But I try to stick with facts, and sometimes facts don’t back everyone’s beliefs.
Reality is I am “only for” the sharing of information to the public so that in this “news desert” we currently live in, the public can be informed (in advance hopefully) of what is happening in their community… then they can decide on their own how to act.
And I honestly have no problems with HoneyGrove! They followed the lengthy process to get this far across State and local governing, including the voting public.. and they were approved. Congratulations.
And speaking only from facts (related to the Blackwood-Clementon location).
- 75% of the town approved cannabis sales
- So it’s logical that town zoning then can’t be so restrictive that there is no place to open a dispensary within it’s borders.
- Considering all possible locations in town, factoring in residential, schools and yes even busy roadway buffers… are there really many better locations in town?
So with that out of the way, as mentioned the dispensary was denied in Gloucester Township Zoning on September 28th, based on a pre-school being within the 1000 ft buffer. I believe it was one vote short of passing in Zoning.
In all fairness to the Zoning Board, they do not create the ordinances… Council (Redevelopment Committee) does. The Zoning Board’s role is to determine if the proposed change/project meets the zoning rules. But yes they do have the power to grant variances.
Considering the Mayor had to previously send a letter of support to the the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission saying HoneyGrove at Friendly’s was an acceptable location, it seems that the core leaders of the town were already favorable to the plan. (Note: This support letter is part of the general NJ licensing process. If the State Commission is going to spend considerable time reviewing an application, they want to know upfront that the town is in general agreement to the location)
So with that denial in place and a general sentiment that the Friendly’s location was acceptable to the town, the Council worked to adjust the ordinance.
The new cannabis regulation comes down to
The proximity buffers outlined within sub-sections (D)(9)(a) though (D)(9)(d) shall be satisfied when a roadway with at least four-lanes of travel (excluding turning lanes) is present within the radius measurement; the proximity buffer shall under these circumstances extend only to the boundary of the subject roadway.O-22-22: ORDINANCE AMENDING THE GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP LAND DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE, THE VILLAGES OF GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP REDEVELOPMENT
I also want to mention that I recently sat in on a Runnemede Planning Board meeting for 2 dispensaries, which are to be opened directly in neighborhoods next to houses! And they were both approved.
So many would look at the HoneyGrove scenario in relation to the preschool being 800 feet away… across the busy Blackwood Clementon Rd, past the upcoming Super Wawa, and then several homes inside the housing development beyond Wawa… that yeah, that is enough buffer.
HoneyGrove Approval Timeline
- September 28, 2022: Zoning Meeting for HoneyGrove at Friendly’s building Blackwood Clementon Road. Denied
- October 24, 2022: Council Meeting with first reading of ordinance change to include four-lane roads as a buffer. I believe at this first reading there was not a public commentary portion. That would take place at the second reading.
- November 14, 2022: Council Meeting with second reading of ordinance change, with public commentary.
- December 27, 2022: Planning Board meeting for the HoneyGrove dispensary, where it was approved.
The Government Information Process
I want to be very clear that from my perspective, Gloucester Township did everything 100% correct with the information process related to informing the residents.
It’s just interesting to me how different the September and December meetings played out.
For one, with the initial September zoning meeting, 42Freeway was able to write about the plans in advance. I completely missed the Council meetings for the ordinance (I don’t really look at Council Meetings) and in December the weight of the holidays kept me from getting to posting about the Planning Meeting although when it got back into my brain, I was able to attend.
Secondly, the HoneyGrove team had caught an amazingly bad stroke of luck in September, being put on the same agenda as the Freeway Golf warehouse meeting!
Sure, absolutely people were there in September for the HoneyGrove process, but there were 200+ others in the room simply because of the warehouse application to be reviewed later in the night!
And thousands more were aware of HoneyGrove because as all of the town Facebook groups were commenting on the warehouses, at times it would be mentioned “oh also on the agenda is the HoneyGrove dispensary for Friendly’s”
But to be very clear, for the September Zoning meeting there 100% was public commentary against the dispensary. Prepared, planned commentary.
The owners of Millbridge apartments were in attendance and stated they did not want a dispensary there as it was too close to their residential development.
And not only was the pre-school owner in attendance, she hired an attorney to speak for her and to ask questions! At one point there were tears shed!
Plus other residents spoke out on the HoneyGrove application.
My point is there were people very strongly against the approval.
And in this week’s Planning Board approval… it was me and a woman who was there simply because attending meetings seems to be her hobby. No disrespect.
Think about that… 2 people at the Planning Board meeting, and I don’t even live in Gloucester Township.
Actually though, the time to speak out against the approval was to have been at the Council meetings when the ordinance change was read.
The Gloucester Township Council meetings are recorded and available on YouTube.
For the second reading of the ordinance change with public commentary there several residents who spoke on other topics.
But it would seem that no one in the room realized that the ordinance being read that night was targeted at the approval of HoneyGrove (or were ok with it). I mean you really have to be in the weeds of this stuff to connect the dots.
Well, the one resident who attends many meetings did speak but really her commentary was more about the general legalization of cannabis, and not the specific ordinance change ahead of the HoneyGrove meetings.
So the closing on this is.
The public simply didn’t know the zoning was being changed, and that HoneyGrove was coming back to Planning soon.
And again.. Gloucester Township seems to have done everything properly. They have legal notices published. Agendas are published according to New Jersey laws.
In fact I’ll give the town a huge “kudos” that their online agendas and meeting minutes are seriously ranked in my mind as one of the best communities in South Jersey, with informing the public.
It just feels like in today’s “news desert” where major local newspapers are operating with reporting staffs of 2-4 reporters and can’t cover a fraction of what they used to… there needs to be more in State laws to get information out to the public.
I don’t know the answer. I have several recommendations that I’ll share in another post but I don’t have the full answer to how to keep the public informed.
The public shouldn’t have to rely on spare-bedroom bloggers like myself who pick through the 100s of notices and agendas to pull out the significant ones.
Good luck HoneyGrove! I am not really a “smoker” but I’ll stop in when you open. I’m not a big whiskey guy either but always good to keep some on-hand for when company comes over.
Links and Location
HoneyGrove Medical Dispensary (Not approved)
1337 Blackwood Clementon Rd
Clementon, NJ 08021
Website (No real content)