The that may soon be setting up on Route 1 in Woodbridge is just another retail store.
Mayor John McCormac said that the opening of the Compassionate Care Center of New Jersey's pot shop "is just like ," a mid-level retailer soon to be moving into old Fortunoff store.
"It's a retail use turning into another retail use," the mayor said, comparing Compassionate Care to the new flagship department store due to open at the local mall.
The mayor and other officials were peppered with questions from the public at a Tuesday night council meeting about the that the medical marijuana emporium was coming to town.
McCormac said then that he knew about the company's efforts to open in Woodbridge at the "about a year ago." The mayor didn't divulge that information, he said, because of the "confidential negotiations" between the cannabis retailer and the owner of the building.
According to McCormac, he finally released the news last week because the building purchase had been finalized.
"It was a long and contentious fight," the mayor said between the medical marijuana vendor and the store owner.
McCormac defended his decision to keep the news of the marijuana warehouse to himself.
"The employees don't know, the shareholders don't know, the investors don't know," he said of such internal corporate decisions such as the purchase of the 6th Ave. Electronics store.
But in other towns, where news got out that medical marijuana concerns were trying to move in, homeowners - and in some cases, politicians - projected a galvanized resolve to keep the pot shops out.
In February, Compassionate Care gave up a legal battle to try to overturn a zoning board decision that turned away the pot seller as a non-permitted use under their land ordinance laws. A warehouse site in New Brunswick was also abandoned last year because of zoning issues.
Most recently in New Jersey, homeowners in Freehold fought to keep a medical marijuana dispensary from gaining a foothold. In California, which has much more lax marijuana laws than New Jersey, the Los Angeles city council ruled to close all pot shops because of the crime problem.
Woodbridge Republican chairman John Vtaric asked McCormac why other towns had fought so hard to keep the pot warehouses out of their towns. Vtraric noted the same criminal element issues that other towns have used as a means of keeping the cannabis dispensaries at bay.
"They aren't providing jobs for their residents like we are," McCormac said to laughs from several council and audience members.
There was also questions about why the pot shop news was kept so secret from township residents.
When Woodbridge resident Gerald Trabalka wondered why the public was kept in the dark, Council President Gregg Ficarra snapped, "It's a done deal. Get to the point."
That wasn't quite true, according to McCormac. He said that the marijuana store still had to before it could open. Tom Maras, a frequent critic of the mayor, said later that he wondered why Compassionate Care would spend so much money on a building if someone in Town Hall hadn't already told them they were guaranteed approval.
Last week, McCormac said that where other towns rejected medical marijuana dispensaries, they were "Welcome in Woodbridge."
One of the selling points for the dispensary were the 50 jobs it would bring to town - many of them part time jobs for off-duty police, since pot shops need to be heavily guarded - and the payment of new property taxes.
Vtaric asked if the pot shop would be able to garner one of the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) abatements popular among new businesses moving into town.
McCormac indicated it was a possibility. "We don't know yet. They have to apply," he said.