The retail sale of recreational marijuana will be legal in the city of Southampton, but the city council may struggle to agree on the right place for such businesses.
Southampton City Council took the time at Tuesday’s regular meeting to consider changing the city’s code to account for the possible arrival of cannabis dispensaries and on-site pot parlors in town. It turns out to be quite a controversial issue even after the city voted with over 600 other cities in the state to participate in New York’s newly legalized cannabis economy.
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman previously introduced the ordinance — which, among other things, would create broad setbacks for potential cannabis businesses near schools, churches and city green spaces, and codify the city’s position in the city. where and how cannabis businesses might operate.
His suggestions were rebuffed by other board members and members of the public who showed up for the meeting. These proposals included allowing pot dispensaries or parlors in unincorporated parts of the city, which could lead to pot businesses popping up in the downtown hamlets of Bridgehampton or Hampton Bays.
That wasn’t good news for Councilor Rick Martel, who said no one wanted these businesses in the downtown villages. Nor did it sway Councilwoman Cyndi McNamara, who had objected during the council business session to proposed zoning changes to allow businesses in the town center or along roads. very frequented.
Mr Schneiderman told the board that his initial inclination had been to allow pottery businesses only in areas zoned as light industry, but later added village businesses and highway businesses as possible access areas, given the challenges associated with setting up businesses in light industry. areas with few eligible structures.
Ms. McNamara was of the view that the city should take its time in considering the proposals, as she suggested that her elected colleagues be “as restrictive as possible” on zoning and other proposals advanced by Mr. Schneiderman.
Ms McNamara also highlighted concerns about increased traffic as Southampton could end up with “the only dispensary between Riverhead and Montauk”.
Michelangelo Lieberman, an urban planner, responded to council and Ms McNamara’s concerns by suggesting that if traffic was a problem, council should reconsider the proposed ban on dispensaries in shopping centres. “It makes more sense to me than in the villages,” Ms McNamara said.
Mr. Lieberman also responded to Mr. Martel’s concern by comparing potential pot dispensaries to Starbucks and said, “If we look at it as just retail use — there could be up to 500 customers a day, and like a Starbucks, we wouldn’t want it in a residential area. He said it was wiser to “keep it in a village business [zoned area] where the culture of consumption would extend beyond this use.
“Downtown areas will struggle to cope with setbacks,” Shneiderman said. “Even if you have village commercial zoning, there are no properties that meet it,” given the very restrictive setbacks the city offers, which could run counter to the city’s own setback guidelines. ‘State of the Office of Cannabis Management.
Mr. Schneiderman also stressed to the board and attendees that they were prohibited from engaging in a de facto cannabis ban through zoning. “We’re going to have to find a place for it to go,” he said.
Complicating matters for the town, Mr Schneiderman said, is that “the Shinnecocks are on track to open multiple dispensaries on the reservation”, and it was unfair to townspeople wanting to participate. the cannabis economy to be shut down. outside of that.
The supervisor also explained the challenges of limiting cannabis businesses to areas of the city zoned as light industry. In practice, the setbacks and other restrictions meant that only a few existing buildings in light industrial areas of the city would qualify for the proposed setback regime and would essentially give an unfair competitive advantage to the owner or owners of those properties, Ms. Schneidermann.
This question was amplified in comments from several Water Mill stakeholders. Robert Fischette, an attorney, said he represents the landlord of Water Mill Square at 670 Montauk Highway, which has about 20 business and commercial tenants.
He took issue with the city’s restrictive zoning proposals near city greens, particularly the Water Mill’s Village Green.
“It looks like it belongs to the Water Mill Village Improvement Association, but is it a green village, a park? It remains vague and my client’s eligibility is unknown,” Mr. Fischette said. He also argued that “the state has arguably neutralized the problem at the local level,” given that state liquor laws “preempt local zoning laws” when it comes to setbacks – and l The state modeled its proposed withdrawal regulations on guidelines already in place when it comes to liquor stores.
The city’s proposed changes would “unfairly limit the watermill,” Fischette said.
Matthew Schweber, another lawyer, amplified Mr. Fischette’s concerns by telling the council that his draft order was premature and that “the state must publish its regulations first. Many of the provisions would be frozen by the [state] Regulations” in its Marihuana Taxation and Regulation Act.
The law mirrors the state’s liquor control law, Schweber said, which requires cities to show demonstrable impacts when they regulated when, where and how liquor stores liquors are allowed to operate. “That hasn’t been done in this order at all,” Mr. Schweber said, urging the council to “expect the state to release its dispensary and consumer lounge regulations within the next 90 days.” The city, he said, doesn’t want “to have lawsuits from people who have been relegated to the fringes or totally excluded.”
Benjamin Rinzler, owner of Water Mill Square, also spoke and said he was “excited and happy that the city didn’t walk away and expected me to get an equal opportunity to have a dispensary as tenant”. He was “deterred” by the apparent exclusion of Water Mill via the proposed restrictive zoning around the green.
There has been a lot of push back on the whole prospect of legal weed sales in Southampton. Gail Lombardi told the board she was “flabbergasted by the conversation” and took umbrage at Mr Lieberman’s characterization that pot sales are akin to other retail operations. “Are you kidding me?” she asked. “We have not withdrawn, but we cannot withdraw? Why not?”
She highlighted an oft-repeated concern about children’s access to cannabis or cannabis-based products. “We tell our kids, ‘it’s your brain, the egg, your brain on the drugs’ – but we say it’s okay to have recreational marijuana in our community? It’s really a big problem.”
Kim Laube, executive director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, a Westhampton-based addiction resource agency, also objected to the decision to participate. “It’s a public health threat to us,” Ms Laube said. “No, we don’t want it in the Hamlets, and no we don’t want to normalize it on Main Street.”
Mr. Schneiderman repeatedly told naysayers that “the only decision before us was where you could buy it,” in light of the state’s legalization of recreational possession and use. “If there is nowhere else [to buy it], all traffic on Montauk Highway goes toward the reservation. And no one in the community could participate in the economic benefits.
After several rounds of criticism and concerns about the proposed order, Mr Schneiderman said he would delay a vote until October 11. He said the board would reconsider the proposed ban on dispensaries in malls and wait to see if the state’s rollback regime would be consistent with the city’s proposals. “It’s easy to pick the wrong places,” Mr. Schneiderman said, “but not the right places.”