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Friday, June 21, 2024

Schenectady Plans to Implement a Three-Month Pause on Smoke Shops

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SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady City Council is moving forward with a three-month smoke shop moratorium that will pause the establishment of new tobacco and vape stores in the city while the council works on new zoning restrictions for future shops.

The council will vote on the three-month moratorium during its meeting Monday after the proposal was passed by the City Development and Planning Committee during its meeting last Monday.

City Council President Marion Porterfield said that she supports the three-month moratorium that will be on the council’s agenda on March 11, noting that she initially brought the proposed moratorium forward last summer.

A proposed sixth-month smoke shop moratorium was shelved in October as city code enforcement efforts were underway to crack down on smoke shops that had opened without a required certificate of use. With additional smoke shops opening in the city in the interim, the proposed moratorium is back in front of the council at a reduced three-month timeframe.

“At the time, since we were doing enforcement, the council decided — and I agreed with it — that we would let the enforcement happen,” Porterfield said Tuesday. “Along with the enforcement, we were also doing the zoning overlay. However, with the change in corporation counsel, those things are not moving ahead as quickly as we would like, so therefore the moratorium gives us more of an opportunity to kind of slow the process down until we get our zoning in place.”

The city council began exploring zoning restrictions for both smoke shops and cannabis dispensaries last July, but progress on a draft zoning map was stalled due to a change in the city’s corporation counsel office, as Corporation Counsel Maxine Barasch replaced predecessor Andrew Koldin in January.

The proposed moratorium does not apply to current or future cannabis retailers in the city, including Upstate Canna Co., the first and so far only cannabis dispensary in the city.

City Councilwoman Doreen Ditoro, who has been a persistent advocate for the smoke shop moratorium, said she was satisfied that the board will be moving forward with a vote on the three-month moratorium.

“Of course, if corporation counsel thinks that they need more time for us to get zoning and everything else in place, then they’ll extend it as needed,” she said Thursday.

The moratorium halts the establishment of any new smoke shops in the city until June 10, with no applications submitted before March 11 for building permits or land use approvals for vape shops to be considered or processed by the city.

“I absolutely am supportive of it,” City Councilwoman Carmel Patrick said of the proposed moratorium. “I think we need the time to plan and think about our zoning. I think we’ve heard from both Tobacco-Free Communities of New York State, as well as a lot of residents in terms of the health aspects, as well as what we need to do to protect especially children from some of the things that are happening. Even some of the business owners in some of our business districts, we need to make sure that we have diverse business opportunities and everyone is able to raise the tide so that our business districts thrive.”

Assistant Corporation Counsel Sean O’Brien told the council during its Monday meeting that the corporation counsel’s office expects to present a draft zoning report to the board by mid-April for the council’s consideration.

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Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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