The Mount Laurel zoning board Wednesday night denied a proposal to open a medical marijuana dispensary on Route 73 in Mount Laurel, just over the Evesham border.
Zoning Board of Adjustment members voted 6-1 against Curaleaf New Jersey Inc.'s plan for a facility at 1315 Route 73, now the site of a Giant Fitness gym and owned by Balducci Inc. of Haddonfield.
Board member Robert Killen was the only vote in favor. He had made a motion to approve the plan but it died for lack of a second.
Several board members noted the dispensary would not be 1,000 feet away from residences and a daycare center — as required by the township's medical marijuana ordinance. They said the ordinance was designed with this specialized use in mind and has not yet been used in Mount Laurel. A more suitable site meeting the requirements should have been selected by Curaleaf, some on the board and members of the public said.
"There's a 1,000-foot limit in there for a reason," member Joseph Green said.
"I do think it could have a negative impact on our neighborhood," board member Alan Kramer said of his opposition to the proposal. Although the board legally couldn't consider the dispensary's impact on nearby Evesham, Kramer said "it's our neighbor and I don't think we'd want our neighbor doing that to us."
Several members emphasized they were not opposed to medical marijuana.
"I don't like turning away businesses from Mount Laurel," said member John Francescone. However, he said Curaleaf's testimony wasn't substantial enough to demonstrate there would be no detriment to a neighborhood within 1,000 feet. Francescone said he hoped Curaleaf would find another site in Mount Laurel that would comply with the ordinance.
The meeting Wednesday night was the second regarding Curaleaf's application. Representatives of the company — which serves more than 200,000 registered medical marijuana patients in 23 states with 90 local dispensaries, 22 cultivation sites and 30 processing sites — also testified at the August 5 meeting of the board.
During each meeting, the sale of legalized recreational marijuana came up. New Jersey voters in November will decide whether to legalize the sale of marijuana to residents 21 and older.
The Curaleaf dispensary would have used 8,000 square feet for medical marijuana and kept 8,225 unoccupied. CherylLynn Walters, the Egg Harbor Township lawyer representing the applicant before the board, had acknowledged any plan to sell recreational marijuana from the building would require further approval from the zoning board.
Curaleaf's application states the site is about 950 feet from a daycare center on Commerce Parkway and about 800 feet from single-family homes on Amberfield Drive. Each would be inside the 1,000-foot property-line-to-property-line restriction and therefore needed special permission.
However, a new exhibit introduced by Curaleaf to the board Wednesday night indicated the entrance to the site on Route 73 would be more than 1,000 feet from residences and the daycare center. That point of view did not sway board members.
One Amberfield Drive resident, Tyler Prime, told the board a medical marijuana dispensary would have a negative effect on the neighborhood. He said he and other residents were "asking the board to do the right thing and deny the application."