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Farmers ask West Amwell Township Committee for Municipal Conditional Approval to use traditional farming practices to cultivate cannabis.

June 17th, 2022 | Posted by miker in Community Affairs

Below is the exact presentation made to West Amwell Township Committee, after filing a complete proposal, consistent with the requirements of Applying to the State of New Jersey for a Cannabis Cultivation License for a Sun Grown, Traditional Farming operation, in West Amwell, NJ. For more information, please contact Mike at 609-647-9754. Our Proposal is consistent with the West Amwell Master Plan, while the current Land Use Ordinance is in contradiction to the Master Plan, one has to ask, why is this happening? Why would the Township exclude Agriculture from the best chance to encourage investment in Traditional Agricultural Development maybe ever. The Township Committee has made a mistake, and needs to correct it.

Presentation to West Amwell Township March 16, 2022

NJ Grow Free llc; Cannabis Cultivation as Agriculture.

Good evening and thank you for your attention. My name is Michael Rassweiler and I have been a
resident and farm owner / operator in West Amwell Township since 1995. My wife, Colleen and I and
our Co­ owner Scott Morgan formed the Entity NJ Grow Free llc for the purpose of pursuing a
Cannabis Cultivation Approval and State License, to be established on our existing Organic Farm,
located on Rock Road East.

We have submitted to the Township Committee, an information packet to provide details about our
proposed Cultivation Center. With great respect for the difficulty of the Township Authority in managing this new Industry, and as a West Amwell Organic Farmer for over 25 years, I ask for your patience to hear our Proposal, as there are some concerns we have about why Traditional Agriculture seems to be unfairly excluded from the Opportunity.

West Amwell Ordinance 06, 2021 establishes that “the Township supports the safe and appropriate
siting of cannabis related…businesses, including cultivation centers…” The ordinance defines a
Cultivation Center as “a building, structure or Premises used for the cultivation of Cannabis.”
Cannabis, as defined in the ordinance, does not include Hemp. The Ordinance also states that
“There shall be no limit on the number of Cannabis Cultivation Centers,” and, somewhat ironically that, “the look and design of such facilities shall be in keeping with the agricultural nature of the region.”

Cannabis cultivation centers were originally permitted as a conditional use in all Land Use
zones, though our zone RR6 was removed, from that list, except as a micro business, in Ordinance
10, 2021. The decision to remove the opportunity of a property owner, located in a Rural
Residential Zone from receiving conditional permission, is consistent with the Township seeking to
discourage applications, but it should not preclude the Freedom of a Citizen to Apply for a
Variance according to standard Land Use and Zoning Board public Hearing process. Especially when
Ordinance 09 2021 clearly states “ensuring the citizens of the Township of West Amwell are provided
ample opportunity to participate within this new Industry.”

There are other complexities to the situation as defined by the Township Ordinances 06, 09 and 10
2021, but none of them should be considered insurmountable and in the interest of Supporting
Agricultural Opportunity in West Amwell, we respectfully request that the following items be
acknowledged.

While the NJ Cannabis law states that no Farmland Assessed Properties shall be licensed to
cultivate Cannabis, there is no reason why an existing farm might not give up its Farmland
Assessment, on a designated area, Pay the Rollback Penalty and have the Area designated for
cannabis cultivation, reassessed as a “Special Use Area Qualification”, thereby protecting the
continued Land Use as Agriculture but yielding the Township a higher Property Tax rate and income. Furthermore, if West Amwell cares about supporting a resident to “participate within this new Industry” it seems logical that this method would be structured without penalties and with the assistance of the Tax Assessor, especially when it ultimately supports Traditional Agricultural Practices.

Additionally confusing, the Township Ordinance after stating that Cannabis is not Hemp, refers to
Permitting Outdoor Cultivation under Special permit for the Cultivation of Hemp. We can only
remind the Township Authority that it is clearly confirming that the Outdoor Production of Hemp,
which in all but the concentration of THC, is the same plant as Cannabis, producing the same smells
and is allowed by the Township and the State of New Jersey. This needs to be taken in context with
the consideration of smells and the prohibition of them. Permitted fields of Industrial Hemp, grown
outdoors is now well established in NJ and surrounding States, and smells from outdoor Cultivation
has not been a problem. The problem with smells from Cultivation are from Indoor, Year-Round
intensive energy and actively ventilated warehouse production, especially those located in close
proximity to residences, and commercial workplaces. The clear recognition of the Township that
outdoor Hemp Production is a permitted use should demonstrate that Outdoor Production of Cannabis
should also be Conditionally Permitted. The State Cannabis Law clearly delineates those
requirements for outdoor cultivation including Secure and Alarmed Fencing, that encloses the
Cultivation Area and does not allow the public to see inside, and the Township Ordinances refer to
the State requirements as inclusive of Township requirements already.

We are not asking the Township Committee to explain these complexities·tonight.

We are asking the Township Committee to recognize that Traditional Agriculture must also be
provided Ample Opportunity to participate within this new Industry. That among the Unlimited
Cultivation permissions there must be representatives like NJ Grow Free that are owned and operated
by long standing local farmers like Colleen, Scott and Myself. We are here tonight to ask for
your Support for Traditional Agriculture, in these matters, and are pleased to answer any questions
you may have.

In the Packet there is a draft letter that we need from the Township Authority, recognizing that NJ
Grow Free has the right of any West Amwell Property owner to follow existing standards of
practice, to request Variances from Land Use Ordinances that are unduly constrictive, allowing for
the involvement of our community and judged by the Boards already formed for this purpose.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Submitted Wednesday March 16, 2022

The Township Committee Minutes approved by the Township Committee for March 16, 2022 and on April 6, 2022, Rassweiler provides WAT Master Plan quotes that demonstrate Cannabis Cultivation is Agriculture and West Amwell should be supporting its Farmers, not telling them to “move to another Town.”

3-16-2022tcm.pdf (westamwelltwp.org)

4-6-2022tcm.pdf (westamwelltwp.org)

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