VINELAND – A fourth-generation agriculture business is getting set to enter a lush new market — growing cannabis.
A proposed conversion of the Dandrea Produce facility in the North Vineland Industrial Park to grow cannabis indoors was approved by city planners on Wednesday night.
A newly formed affiliated corporation, Garden Greens LLC, would operate the cannabis cultivation facility. Jana Dandrea, operations director for Dandrea Produce, is the principal for Garden Greens.
The prospective enterprise comes with a big “but,” however. Garden Greens still must get an operating license from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Those licenses are issued on a competitive basis, and they are hotly pursued. A regulatory commission official on Thursday said there is no date set for issuing license decisions.
The Garden Greens site plan met no significant hurdles at the Planning Board meeting. The board approved it with some relief granted from industrial zoning codes.
Dandrea Produce operates from a roughly 5.6-acre property at 3665 North Mill Road, near Weymouth Road and Gallagher Drive. Garden Greens would take over an existing, one-story masonry building.
Jana Dandrea attended the meeting with Peter Dandrea, sales director for Dandrea Produce. Before the meeting, she said the produce business would relocate elsewhere in Vineland but just where was not settled.
Ryan Headley, the city’s supervising engineer, said the proposed conversion needed board approval because of differences in zoning requirements for industrial operations versus newer ones for cannabis-related operations.
Regulations for cannabis businesses, essentially, stress heightened security features. Those include greater distances from neighboring properties and even different landscape priorities. The North Mill Road site was built on industrial standards.
Vineland approved cannabis zoning regulations in 2021 in reaction to new state law. It specified industrial zones for certain cannabis businesses, including growing facilities.
The Zoning Board last month set off a controversy when, ignoring those regulations, it gave a variance for a cannabis facility to open in an agricultural zone off North West Boulevard.
Green Gardens attorney Michael Fralinger told the board that this proposed use would encompass the entirety of the existing building, but it actually would generate less traffic than from a cold storage or similar facility.
No objections were raised by board members, though Chairman David Manders admitted curiosity about what would happen to Dandrea Produce.
“They will be operating at a site nearby,” Fralinger said. “The goal is to have their own property, with a new facility. In the meantime, they may have to be renting space somewhere to continue their operations. But Dandrea Produce, they’ve been here for 104 years and their goal is to be here for another 104 years.”
“Good to hear,” Manders said.
Joe Smith is a N.E. Philly native transplanted to South Jersey more than 30 years ago, keeping an eye now on government in South Jersey. He is a former editor and current senior staff writer for The Daily Journal in Vineland, Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, and the Burlington County Times.
Have a tip? email@example.com or follow me on Twitter, @jpsmith-dj. Help support local journalism with a subscription.