The Town of Shawangunk has scheduled a public hearing on Sept. 16 to seek input from town residents on whether they want to allow cannabis lounges and dispensaries in the community.
The hearing will be held during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting beginning at 7 p.m.
Supervisor John Valk said during the Town Board’s Sept. 2 session that the board has until Dec. 31, 2021, to decide whether to allow cannabis lounges and dispensaries in the town.
“We’re not required to hold a public hearing,” Valk said. “But we can have a public hearing just to get public input. I know I’ve had a few phone calls from people who were opposed to it.”
On March 31, New York made recreational marijuana legal. Towns and villages can’t limit a resident’s right to possess or consume it. But the communities do have the power to prohibit retail outlets from selling cannabis.
Under state regulations, the Town of Shawangunk could pass a local law opting out of allowing cannabis lounges and dispensaries in the town. If the town does nothing, Shawangunk is automatically considered in and lounges and dispensaries would be eligible to open in 2022.
If Shawangunk decides to go with an opt-out law, it has to be approved by Dec. 31. If the town does not opt out by the end of the year, there won’t be a second chance to prohibit the businesses.
There is a local excise tax imposed on the sale of cannabis products from a retail dispensary to a cannabis customer of four percent of the product’s price. This tax is distributed to local governments based on the location of the dispensary.
A total of 25 percent of the tax revenue goes to the County and 75 percent goes to the cities, town or villages within the County.
Many New York residents currently travel to Massachusetts to frequent cannabis dispensaries and lounges since they became legal in the neighboring state. The Town of Great Barrington (MA) received nearly $1 million in tax revenue from the town’s only retail cannabis store in the first six months of its operation in 2019, according to published reports.
In August, the Town of Gardiner discussed the possibility of scheduling a public hearing to hear its residents’ comments on whether to allow cannabis lounges and dispensaries in the town. No hearing was scheduled during the August board meeting, though. Other localities that have chosen to opt out include the Towns of Crawford and New Windsor and the Village of Maybrook. The Village of Walden was expected to opt out after a scheduled public hearing this week.
In other news, Ulster County Legislator Ken Ronk, who represents the Town of Shawangunk in the legislature, told the Town Board that he supported Ulster County using some of the federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for brownfield remediation in the county.
“One of my goals is to use some of the American Rescue Plan funds to look at our county properties that are brownfields that we don’t typically sell because there may be contamination and use some of that money to do Phase 2 assessments to find out how much contamination really is there,” Ronk said. “And perhaps, we can clean up some of these properties and get them back on the tax rolls.”
Ronk pointed out that one of the largest properties in Ulster County with possible contamination is Brown’s Junkyard in Wallkill. He said just under $500,000 in back taxes is due.
“I’d really like to see us find a way to take the junkyard for the back taxes, clean it up and get a good, positive reuse on it,” Ronk said.
Councilman Brian Amthor said he’d met recently with the Wallkill Fire Department to discuss the proposed Hudson Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Association parade that could be held in the Town of Shawangunk next summer.
Amthor said he is concerned about the size of the parade that has been held in Lake George in recent years.
“The problem is we want it to be a success otherwise there won’t be another one in town,” Valk said.
“We’ve had some wonderful events going on in town and we want to support these events 110 percent,” Amthor said. “But we don’t want to go from zero to 100 miles per hour so quickly. We’re not against it.
We just need to get a better understanding. We want to have a nice event here in town with just a little more control.”
Amthor said the town will continue to gather more information to make sure the parade is something that the town can handle without disrupting the lives of local residents.
It was announced that the Town of Shawangunk’s annual “Trunk or Treat” Halloween event will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 31 at Verkeerderkill Park.
There will be games and prizes, a costume parade, a haunted house, live music and fall foods. There will also be prizes for the Best Decorated Cars.
For more information, call 845-800-8431.