Tabatchnick: We Want In On Cannabis Business

A member of the Tabatchnick family, whose food manufacturing plant is on Hamilton Street, told the Planning Board on June 2 that the company wants to participate in the budding cannabis industry. (Photo: Tabatchnick Fine Foods.)

A June 2 Planning Board discussion on the new zoning ordinance changes for cannabis businesses had an unexpected participant: a member of the Tabatchnick family.

Yes, that Tabatchnick family, the one that makes Kosher soups.

The Tabatchnicks own Tabatchnick Fine Foods on Hamilton Street, the more-than 100-year-old food company famous for its Kosher soups and broths.

Jason Tabatchnick phoned in to the virtual meeting to let the Board know that he and his family want in on the marijuana business, and sought some advice about a zoning issue.

The company’s township facility sits in a residential zone, but the township’s ordinances allowing for the manufacturing of cannabis products – which is the part of the industry in which the Tabatchnicks want to participate – call for the manufacturing businesses to be located in the Business and Industrial zone.

The issue, Jason Tabatchnick told the Board, is that their property abuts a B-I zone.

“I am a little concerned as we are looking at this right now, we would like to participate, but as the ordinance is, we would not be able to participate,” he said. “Is this something that can be revisited down the road?”

“Would the town consider working with a business that’s not in the right zone but interested in rezoning?” Tabatchnick asked.

Mark Healey, the township’s principal planner, told Tabatchnick that the problem may be solved by the company applying for a use variance.

But Township Councilman Ted Chase said the state may require that cannabis businesses be located in the proper zones, thus making moot the issue of seeking a use variance.

Echoing what was Healey’s second point, Chase said the Tabatchnick property could be rezoned.

“Speaking as a Councilman and given that you’re a township business of very long-standing, I think we’d be willing to do it,” Chase said of the rezoning. “But that’s speaking for myself and my term expires at the end of the year. And I’m only speculating that the state may require that you’re applying from a permitted zone.”

Healey suggested Tabatchnick speak with Vince Dominach, the township’s Economic Development Director.

“I would suggest talking to Mr. Dominach, because he’s the point of contact here in the township on that issue,” Healey said. “If there is a conversation to be had, he’s the one to start that conversation at the township level.”

The Planning Board was discussing the proposed changes to the township’s zoning ordinance that would allow for the issuance of all six licenses for the nascent recreational cannabis industry. The changes would allow licenses for Cultivation, Manufacturing, Wholesaling, Distribution and Delivery Service in the Business and Industry zone, and retail establishments in the township’s four retail zones.

The Board decided to endorse the ordinance change.

Earlier in the meeting, Dominach told the Board that he had more than 50 inquiries from businesses wishing to set up a cannabis shop in the township.

“Everything from multinational Germans and Israelis to little mom and pops, to some of the biggest in four or five different states,” he said. “There’s so much money … the inquiries are incredible.”

Dominach said that because the state is working with a limited number of licensesw and wishes to spread them throughout teh state, it’s not likely that Franklin will get very many.

“The important thing is, even if we only get a couple of them, it makes everyone else out there doing other types of business know that Franklin is open to all types of businesses, regardless of the politics of the issue,” he said.

Board Chairman Michael Orsini said he was happy the township has chosen to allow the businesses, unlike some surrounding towns.

“I’m glad we’re doing this,” he said. “I read where a lot of towns around us banning it. Doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think we’re happy to capture that revenue from businesses that now will be able to legally operate. Doesn’t make sense not to capture that.”

“I’m happy that we’re open to it and getting out ahead of making sure we’re capturing some of that income stream for Franklin,” he said.

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