GNH Lumber February 2024

Copake lays out where to sell pot

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COPAKE—Now if anyone wants to open a cannabis dispensary in Copake, they will know where they can put it.

At the November 10 Town Board meeting, a majority of board members voted to adopt a local law which amends the Copake Zoning Code to regulate “the time, place and manner of the operation of licensed adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries.”

The Columbia County Planning Board reviewed the law and found it has no potential countywide or inter-municipal impacts.

Following an examination of Part 2 of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), Ken Dow, attorney for the town’s Planning and Zoning boards, explained, “Without this law, these things can go anywhere retail is allowed … [the law] narrows where [dispensaries] can go.” Part 1 of the SEQR document was completed at last month’s meeting. Mr. Dow said that most of the SEQR questions about environmental impacts/affects “have no relevance” to dispensaries.

He said the law does not authorize anything new, that the town has already opted to allow retail dispensaries. What the law does is limit the placement of dispensaries to certain designated districts. The town law makes the siting of dispensaries more restrictive.

The zoning districts in which cannabis dispensaries are allowed contingent upon securing a special use permit and site plan review approval are (locations are described in a non-specific way):

*Hamlet Business (HB) located in Craryville around the County Route 7, Craryville Road, Route 23 intersection, and a section of Route 23, east and west of the intersection; West Copake around the county routes 7 and 7A triangle area; Copake, along Main and Church streets and in Copake Falls along a section of State Route 344.

*Highway Business (HW-B) located on County Route 7A, north and south of the Copake hamlet; sections of Route 22 from the Copake Veterinary Hospital to Route 344 and further north from approximately Yonderview Road north to the old Roe Jan School

*Mixed Use (MU) located in the vicinity of the Roe Jan Library and in the area of Catamount on Route 23.

The Hamlet and Hamlet Business districts are two separate designations. Cannabis dispensaries are not allowed in the Hamlet district according to the new law.

Councilmember Stanley “Stosh” Gansowski noted he was not in favor of the locations prescribed by the new law and said they should be in agricultural districts. “I believe they should be on working farms.”

“Bringing in places to sell [cannabis] will change the character of the town,” he said, adding that only one dairy farm remains in Copake and there were six when he took office several years ago.

Mr. Dow reminded Mr. Gansowski that the town had already passed a law to allow dispensaries, “that is water under the bridge.” This law restricts where they can go, otherwise they would be allowed everywhere retail is allowed, he explained.

Mr. Gansowski cited Empire and Langdon farms, which he said grow cannabis, as examples of farms that should be able to sell it. “Let the farms be able to support themselves,” he said.

Currently, according to town code “you can’t do retail in an RU (Agricultural and Rural Residential) district,” said Mr. Dow, noting that while farmstands are allowed, this is not.

He said that state law prohibits someone who has a license to grow cannabis from having an interest in a cannabis retail business. “You cannot raise and sell on the same property.”

Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said the state’s ultimate rules on growing and selling cannabis are still in process and it may be that the town will have to amend the law in the future to accommodate a change in the rules.

The new law sets cannabis dispensary hours of operation during which the establishment may be open to the public and retail sales may be carried out as limited to between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

A majority of Town Board members voted in favor of the new law. Supervisor Mettler, Councilmembers Richard Wolf, Jeffrey Judd and Terry Sullivan voted Yes. Councilmember Gansowski abstained.

There are currently no applications for cannabis dispensaries before the Town Planning Board, although there were some earlier inquiries.

The next regular Copake Town Board meeting takes place December 8 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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