Cannabis dispensaries could open in the Town of Gardiner by 2023 after the Town Board decided not to opt out of allowing marijuana retail stores within the town at its Nov. 9 meeting.
The board, however, voted to schedule a public hearing for 7 p.m. on Dec. 14 for a local law that would ban cannabis on-site consumption lounges in the town.
Municipalities in New York have until the end of the year to opt out of having cannabis dispensaries and/or lounges within its borders.
By taking no action on Nov. 9 on cannabis dispensaries, the Town Board has automatically signaled its intention to approve the creation of marijuana shops once the New York State Cannabis Control Board approves applications for these venues.
Cannabis Control Board member and former State Sen. Jen Metzger of Rosendale indicated in a Zoom presentation to the board that this likely wouldn’t happen until 2023 as the state sorts out regulations for the retail sale of cannabis.
The dispensaries could still be banned if Town of Gardiner residents petitioned for a permissive referendum on the opening of marijuana shops and voted it down.
Supervisor Marybeth Majestic said she hoped that the public would “give us the benefit of the doubt” on its decisions regarding cannabis dispensaries and lounges and “not run around and petition against us and cost taxpayers’ money forcing it to a vote.”
Board member Warren Wiegand said the Town Board got a lot of feedback as a “fair number of people” participated in a Survey Monkey questionnaire on the question of locating cannabis shops and on-site consumption lounges in the town.
Board member David Dukler said that only 18 percent of those who voted were against both options. That would leave 82 percent of town residents favoring some sort of cannabis operation in the town.
Before the vote was taken to opt out of lounges, Majestic said she favored opting out of both cannabis shops and lounges.
“I kind of feel strongly about opting out on both until we have more direction,” she said. “It’s kind of taking a jump off a bridge and you don’t know how deep the water is underneath.”
Dukler said he favored allowing dispensaries.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that regulations are going to come through that are going to make it onerous for us to allow dispensaries,” he said. “I think it might give us some guidance.”
The board eventually voted 5-0 to schedule the public hearing on the proposed law to opt out of cannabis lounges.
In other news, Majestic noted that there are a number of vacancies that need to be filled for both town board and town positions.
The Assessment Review Board, the Parks and Recreation Committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals all have openings, according to Majestic. There will also be a vacancy on the Planning Board at the end of the year.
Majestic said all those interested in filling the vacancies should send her a letter along with their resume.
The board voted 4-1 to spend $30,500 for improvements to Majestic Park. Wiegand voted against the resolution.
More than a dozen residents also weighed in via Zoom on the town’s proposed local law regulating short-term rentals during a public hearing.
The proposed local law describes short-term rentals as those that are rented for periods of less than 30 consecutive days and are not located in a two-family or multi-family dwelling.
The proposed law says the regulations are intended as “an interim, stop-gap measure to ensure short-term rentals in the Town are registered and required to meet certain minimum standards while the Town undertakes a thorough review of its Comprehensive Plan and considers the adoption of zoning amendments and/or other police power enactments that are necessary to ensure that the use of residential structures as short-term rentals accords with the Town’s plan for the future development of the community.”
The board’s decision to limit the number of short-term licenses at 100 drew the ire of Wolfe Scandinaro. He believes the law will be challenged because it seeks to limit the number of short-term rentals in the town.
“I think the cap is, once again, unfair and discriminatory,” he said. “If you come to Gardiner and buy a house tomorrow after this law is passed and you want an Airbnb for whatever reason, you can’t because you’re No. 101. The cap is ridiculous.”
Audrey Hudacek, who lives across the street from what she considers a short-term rental, said her research shows that there are 85 short-term rentals in the town.
“Of the 85 identified STRs in Gardiner to date, 57 (of those) or 67 percent are full-house rentals, meaning no owner or host is on site to control unruly behavior, enforce noise ordinances, deal with parking and address garbage collection,” she said.
She said 21 of the 57 short-term full-house rentals are owned by those who don’t live in Gardiner.
“A property owner can not possibly be aware of and responsible for the behavior of their guests when they’re not physically present in the town or state of their short-term rental,” she said.
While the proposed local law drew its share of criticism from residents on both sides of the issue, Suzanne Levirne urged the board to adopt it after nearly three years of debate.
“I would have preferred the more restrictive version, which had primary owner only,” she said. “I think now is the time to put it in place. It’s not perfect, but at least it gives everybody some guidelines.”
Majestic said after the meeting that the board would consider the public comments and then do a SEQR review prior to voting on the local law.