Hopatcong Council: Cannabis Ban Passes – 2021 Budget with 0% Tax Increase – Signup for Hero Banner Program Year #2

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The following are the highlights and the full recording of the Borough of Hopatcong Council Meeting that was held on April 7, 2021, by Zoom Technology.

Summary of what Residents need to know:

  • 2021 BCM 04 07 2021 Movie In1                  Watch full Council MeetingThe Borough passed a Ban on Recreational Cannabis and formed a committee to investigate the matter further.

  • The Borough is introducing a 0% tax increase budget, with a formal presentation on May 5, 2021.

  • The Hopatcong Hero Banner Program is taking applications until April 31, 2021, for the second year of Veterans Flags throughout the main road in town.

  • Proclamation stating that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Hopatcong.

  • The New River Styx Bridge lighting is partially out due to an accident, repairs are underway.

  • The Borough, Lake Hopatcong Commission & Foundation have teamed together for the improvement of the stormwater conveyance system in Whitten Park (Maxim Dr. & Hudson Ave.) to remove phosphate before entering the lake.

Recreational Cannabis Ban

The majority of the meeting on Wednesday night centered on the Ordinance to Ban Cannabis within the Borough of Hopatcong. The matter was discussed at a high level by the council, with many members of the public weighing in on the matter from both sides.

Mayor Michael Francis once again cited the reasoning behind the ban is to first establish the ordinance and work on what is best for Hopatcong, which can be later amended into the ordnance. While the Borough of Hopatcong was given 180 days by the state to establish local rules around recreational cannabis use, Councilmember Richard Schindelar pointed out that the Land Use Board needs clear direction from the Council to be fair to businesses that may file a permit to open Cannabis businesses in the Borough in the near future.

2021 BCM 04 07 2021 Movie In2               Watch Vote & DiscussionBoth the Mayor and several council members made it clear this only affects recreational cannabis and not medical cannabis, which will remain open to those that are licensed and in need. This drew widespread support from several of the public speakers, that thanked the Borough for their consideration of what’s important to the many patients that depend on cannabis use.

The Cannabis Ban Ordinance was not without opposition as Councilperson Jennifer Johnson voted No, citing that the Borough is rushing into the ordinance without finding out more information from the public and other towns, which should happen first.

Councilperson Jennifer Johnson also clarified several points that may have been incorrectly stated during the last meeting, and these points need more research and clearer information needs to be provided as we have until the end of July to decide.  

Cannabis Sub-Committee Announced:

During the meeting, the Mayor announced that councilmembers John Young and Ryan Smith, Hopatcong Police Captain Meghan McCluskey, and Borough Administrator Ron Tappan will form a sub-committee to look into this matter further and provide a recommendation as to what is right for the Borough.

Council President Ryan Smith added during public comment, “We are already looking into this, and this is our first move, and we intend on doing what our town wants. We need time to construct the right zoning ordinance, as the State doesn’t even have guidelines at this time.”

Council Meeting Highlights: Watch the Full Video

Council Member Updates:

  • Beginning Tuesday, April 13th, the Journey bus or the Food Project van will be here twice a month, from 1-3pm.  They will hand out food, diapers, and information to anyone who needs it.
  • The Caregivers support group will be held on April 20, 2021, at 5:30 PM, no registration is necessary.
  • The Community Center has received more donations of food and baby formula, so anyone that needs assistance please call 973-810-3238.
  • The New River Styx Bridge lighting is partially out due to an accident, repairs are underway.
  • The Hopatcong Hero Banner Program has a deadline of April 31, 2021, for the launch in May.
  • JCP&L will be flying a Green/White Helicopter over the area until April 30th to inspect power lines.
  • The MUA will be holding outdoor movies this summer in the High School parking lot.
  • Two Events are this month, Free Trees Giveaway to Hopatcong Residents and Earth Day Trail Hike – April 17th, 2021.
  • The Skate Park is being reopened with the removal of the broken apparatus until future upgrades can occur.

Administrators Report:

  • The contractor has installed all of the piping on the Hudson Sewer project and is in the process of ordering the grinder pumps.
  • The new Nariticong Field backstop and fences are almost complete.
  • The Borough of Hopatcong has been awarded a Grant ($4,000 per Car) if they choose to go electric with any Borough vehicles.

Public Comment:

  • 2021 BCM 04 07 2021 Movie In3     Watch Public CommentsMultiple members of the public spoke on the finalization of the Cannabis Ordinance, due to the length of each public comment, and the multiple different subjects we ask that you watch the shorten video to your right to fully grasp the full message from each speaker (both for and against).
    • Note: Also see the public comments from the Ordnance section of the meeting for more on the Cannabis Ban.
  • Resident asked about summer camp and if a bill on the pay list is due to legal action.
  • Resident asked if the list of roads to be repaved for 2021 has been posted.
  • Resident asked about the refunding of bonds, and why it was not done last year when suggested.
  • Resident suggested the Borough looking to the newly selected School Coop Program.

 Ordinances:

  1. Introduction
  • 1. Ordinance 7-2021, Auction of 6 Frances Avenue, Block 10106 Lot 15 [Passed]

AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOROUGH OF HOPATCONG, COUNTY OF SUSSEX, STATE OF NEW JERSEY AUTHORIZING THE SALE OF CERTAIN PROPERTY OWNED BY THE BOROUGH AND NOT REQUIRED FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES AND MORE COMMONLY KNOWN AS 6 FRANCES AVENUE BLOCK 10106 LOT 15

  • 2. Ordinance 8-2021, Non-sufficient funds fee amendment [Passed]

AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOROUGH OF HOPATCONG, COUNTY OF SUSSEX AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY AMENDING CHAPTER 108, FEES, REGARDING NSF CHECKS

  • 3. Ordinance 9-2021, Auction of 130 West End Avenue, Block 11009 Lot 19 [Passed]

AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOROUGH OF HOPATCONG, COUNTY OF SUSSEX, STATE OF NEW JERSEY AUTHORIZING THE SALE OF CERTAIN PROPERTY OWNED BY THE BOROUGH AND NOT REQUIRED FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES AND MORE COMMONLY KNOWN AS 130 WEST END AVENUE, BLOCK 11009 LOT 19.

  • 4. 0rdinance 10-2021, Amendment to Sewer Fees [Passed]

AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOROUGH OF HOPATCONG, COUNTY OF SUSSEX REPLACING SECTION 186-9A OF THE CODE OF THE BOROUGH OF HOPATCONG

Final Hearing (roll call vote)

  • Ordinance 5-2021, Amendment to §242 to add prohibition for the sale or manufacturing of cannabis [Passed]

AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE CODE OF THE BOROUGH OF HOPATCONG, TO ADD SECTION 242-17F TO PROHIBIT ANY CANNABIS ESTABLISHMENTS, CANNABIS DISTRIBUTORS, CANNABIS DELIVERY SERVICES AND MANUFACTURING OR WHOLESALE SALE OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS

See the recap for this section at the start of this article.

  • Ordinance 6-2021, CAP bank [No]

CALENDAR YEAR 2020 ORDINANCE TO EXCEED THE MUNICIPAL BUDGET APPROPRIATION LIMITS AND TO ESTABLISH A CAP BANK (NU.S.A. 40A:4-45.14)

 Resolutions, (roll call vote)

  1. 2021-53, Emergency Temporary Appropriations for Sewer Utility Operating Budget [Passed]
  2. 2021-54, Emergency Temporary Appropriations for Water Utility Operating Budget [Passed]
  3. 2021-55, Emergency Temporary Appropriations for Current Fund Operating Budget [Passed]
  4. 2021-56, Authorization for the submission of a grant application for the improvement of Whitten Park [Passed]
  5. 2021-57, Authorization for a tax overpayment refund for Block 10803 Lot 7 [Passed]
  6. 2021-58, Authorization for the acceptance of the Municipal Alliance grant [Passed]
  7. 2021-59, Authorization for the hiring of a part time DPW Clerk 1 [Passed]

Old Business: None

New Business:

A. Introduction of the 2021 Municipal Budget

Hopatcong Borough Chief Financial Officer Lorraine Rossetti reported that the 2021 budget has no tax increase for the third year in a row. The budget remains strong with no budget or staffing cuts at this time. In the future, we are going to have to look hard and long if we want to stay with a 0% increase and the sacrifices it might bring.

A more formal presentation will be made at the May 5, 2021, Council meeting

B. The Mayor moved Judith Kracht an alternate into a full-time position on the Land Use Board as Justin Lijo has moved out of town.

Mayor’s Comments:

The mayor hit on three main topics during his presentation:

  • The COVID cases in Hopatcong still are a concern, we raised 880 cases in the last three months, please pay attention, please take this seriously!
  • The Borough is committed to redeveloping the Skate Park as soon as possible
  • Infrastructure is a priority in the Borough as allowed in the budget (Air Quality in Borough Hall and Senior Center), Roads and other projects

 

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