Committee assesses cannabis business zoning in Lake Placid, North Elba

LAKE PLACID — Now that the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid have adopted local laws making it illegal to issue licenses for cannabis sales and on-site consumption, they’ve joined forces to look at zoning for cannabis businesses — just in case their laws are overturned by a permissive referendum.

The new town/village joint “working group” — formed to assess local zoning in anticipation of cannabis businesses coming to the area — had its first meeting on Monday.

North Elba Town Councilor Emily Kilburn Politi said she received approval to move forward with the group from incoming town Supervisor Derek Doty. The group has one agenda item: to look at amending the joint land use code to account for legal cannabis businesses in the event that town and/or village residents overturn opt-out laws passed by the village board and town council this month.

Recreational marijuana was legalized statewide on March 31, and local governments were given until Dec. 31 to adopt local laws opting out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licensing within their boundaries.

Permissive referendums

The opt-out laws are subject to a permissive referendum.

Village residents can file a petition to put the laws on a general election ballot. If 20% of village residents who were registered to vote in the last general election sign and file a petition within 30 days of the board’s opt-out vote on Dec. 20, the laws could appear on a ballot, according to the New York Conference of Mayors.

However, village governments, unlike town governments, have the ability to opt out and then pass a resolution to place their cannabis laws on a special election ballot, bypassing the need for a petition. This is the process the village board began last month. Mayor Art Devlin has repeatedly said that the village board wants to leave the final decision on cannabis with Lake Placid voters. The village board opted out with the intention of placing its laws on a special election ballot in March.

Towns, on the other hand, cannot pass a resolution to place their cannabis laws on a special election ballot. Residents have 45 days from the day the town adopted the laws to file a petition to force a referendum. If enough town residents sign a petition — at least 10% of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election — the laws would appear on the next general election ballot.

Some members of the town council, such as Kilburn Politi, opted out so they could assess zoning and other regulations related to cannabis businesses, while others, such as town Supervisor Jay Rand, opted out because they don’t want cannabis businesses in the town.

Zoning group

The joint working group on cannabis zoning includes Kilburn Politi, village Trustee Jackie Kelly, Lake Placid/North Elba Community Development Director Haley Breen, town Code Enforcement Officer Michael Orticelle and town Code Enforcement Official Darci Lafave.

Kilburn Politi said last Thursday that cannabis retail and on-site consumption businesses will need to be added as uses to the land use code and that they need to be placed in zoning districts, defining where they can and can’t go.

Kilburn Politi said she imagined the group would define cannabis businesses as conditional use, which would require prospective businesses to go before the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board before being approved.

Kilburn Politi said the Cannabis Control Board — the state entity that grants, revokes and limits cannabis licenses as appropriate — would probably look at what the review board typically does: business lighting, signage, parking and architecture, but that the CCB hasn’t offered that guidance. She wonders, “Why not have our own controls?”

“So like, you couldn’t paint a giant marijuana leaf on the side of your building,” she said.

Kilburn Politi said Monday that the group had a good discussion and that fellow members had some suggestions for her drafted changes to the existing land use code. The group will present its suggestions to the town and village boards in upcoming meetings this winter, and Kilburn Politi said she wanted to wait to reveal specifics about the proposed changes until then.

Once the group presents its ideas to the boards and gets feedback from them about the adjustments, Kilburn Politi said the town and village will hold public hearings on the changes before finalizing them.


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