'It will poison a lot of our children': Battle over marijuana heats up in Hunterdon County
LEBANON TOWNSHIP - The township Planning Board is scheduled on Tuesday to start hearing an application to build a marijuana grow facility on Anthony Road, perhaps the most controversial issue in the northern Hunterdon County municipality in recent years.
The application by The NAR Group, of Warren Township, to open a 20,000-square-foot medical marijuana cultivation facility at 62 Anthony Road, the former site of the Diamond Aerosol manufacturing facility, was originally scheduled to be heard on Aug. 16, but NAR requested a postponement until Aug. 30.
To accommodate the large number of residents interested in attending, the hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the gymnasium of Woodglen Elementary School on Bunnvale Road.
Though Planning Board Chairman Gary MacQueen's announcement on Aug. 16 that the hearing had been put off, for more than an hour residents asked the board about planning board procedures as defined in the state's Law Use Law.
"It's very important we do it the right way," MacQueen said. "If we do it the wrong way, we all are going to lose."
MacQueen also said he was "very impressed" with the number of residents who attended the meeting, saying there are many meetings where there are no residents in attendance.
Despite warnings that they could not give opinions on the applications and only ask questions, residents clearly delivered the message the facility is not wanted.
"This is not a threat, but a fact," said Woodglen Road resident Glenn Baykowski. "If you as a board look at the crowd and don't stop this manufacturing marijuana industrial facility, you'll lose your people and our trust in you."
Baykowski said approval of the application would be "spit in our faces."
"This is a poisoned site," said Red Mill Road resident Michael Iannace. "It will poison a lot of our children."
NAR received state approval for the facility in October 2021.
The 40-acre site had been operated more than a decade ago as a research and development facility for internal coatings of aerosol cans, according to a 2011 Environmental Protection Agency report.
Before that it was used by the Diamond East Corporation to manufacture cosmetics and personal protection devices containing tear gas, pepper spray and other specialty chemical products, for about three decades.
In 2011, the EPA report said, the site contained an old stone barn which housed the original cosmetics business, a large stone house used as a residence, two warehouses and various out-buildings used for storage, offices and vehicles.
A Facebook page, Save Lebanon Township, has been posted to rally opposition to the proposal, telling residents to attend township meetings because no decision has been made on the facility.
Marijuana cultivation facilities has sparked opposition in Readington, Alexandria, Kingwood and most recently West Amwell.
The West Amwell Planning Board in July approved a proposal by Green Medicine NJ and GMNJ Properties to convert the former First Pentecostal Prayer of Faith Church into a cultivation facility.
An odor-control system has been put in place in the Verano Holdings growing facility in a former Walmart on Route 22 in Readington after the state Department of Environmental Protection issued fines.
In January, Alexandria rejected a proposal for a medical marijuana cultivation facility on Airport Road.
At an informal February public hearing in Kingwood, not a single resident spoke in favor of a cultivation facility.
In 2020, Lebanon Township voters approved the statewide referendum on the legalization of marijuana by a 2,630-to-1,504 margin.