The Daily Catch

Letter on Cannabis from Planning Board to Town Board (Draft of October 20, 2021)

Draft Letter as of October 20, 2021

To: The Town Board

The Planning Board was recently tasked with evaluating Local Law E (to determine its) consistency with the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP). Local Law E constitutes the Town Board’s decision to opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and lounges in the town of Red Hook. While its impact on the town’s LWRP is largely speculative, a robust discussion ensued nonetheless, as should be expected for a decision as profound as that embodied in this legislation. Over the course of that discussion, the Planning Board raised a number of concerns about the decision to opt out and agreed to raise those issues in a letter to the Town Board.

First, the town’s decision to opt out strikes the Planning Board as curious given the under-utilized commercial space in town, particularly in the TND-CC zone. A decade into its existence the TND has demonstrated success in residential development. The opposite is true on the commercial side – in fact, commercial utilization has gone backwards in that time, owing in part to the 2016 fire that destroyed a building housing eight businesses. Given the considerable capital available to the cannabis industry at this time, it is possible or even likely that a company in that sector could invest in a vacant or under-utilized space. The town forecloses that option with Local Law E; those investors will take their funds elsewhere.

Second, it is important to note that while the decision to opt out of cannabis dispensaries and lounges is technically one that can be undone later, the realities of the industry make it unlikely that Red Hook can one day realize economic benefits even if a future town board changes its mind. New York’s cannabis law was signed in March and regulations are forthcoming. Now is the time that businesses are evaluating their options and assessing the marketplace. With so much pent-up interest, applications will come quickly. Those towns opting out will have missed their opportunity by the time they reconsider their situation.

Third, the Planning Board’s sole involvement in the evaluation of this law is the determination of consistency with the LWRP an exercise which is purely speculative insofar as we were evaluating the impacts of not permitting something in our coastal areas, yet we were told repeatedly we could not engage in speculation about the results of a path not taken. Putting aside that apparent contradiction, it is the Planning Board’s view that the Town Board should engage us in an assessment of which zones are appropriate for dispensaries rather than banning them outright. This effort could result in zoning well-tailored to take advantage of the opportunity for economic growth.

Fourth, the Planning Board is dismayed by language found in Local Law E’s legislative intent: This law is intended to further the Town’s goals of preserving quality of life and protecting the public health.” On what basis is that assertion made? Given the strong support for legalizing cannabis for recreational use demonstrated in public survey data, the quality-of-life argument falls flat. One might argue that the health impacts of cannabis are mixed, but one cannot argue that it is not already in widespread use in the Town of Red Hook, so it is unclear what the purpose of referencing quality of life in this law could be.

Given the preceding, we request that the Town Board rejects Local Law E. We stand ready to assist in preparing the needed modifications to the town’s zoning ordinance necessary for integrate dispensaries and/or lounges into the town in a safe, responsible and economically productive manner.


The Town of Red Hook Planning Board

One response to “Letter on Cannabis from Planning Board to Town Board (Draft of October 20, 2021)”

  1. Claire Horst says:

    It would be nice to see the Planning Board and Town Board work more as a team. The Town Board is disappointing. They have their ideas and will not concede to any different opinions. As far as I’m concerned, its more of a group playing “follow the leader”. One exception, Jacob Testa. He tries, but seems to get shot down every time he disagrees.

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