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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Proposed zoning laws could restrict smoke shops in Schenectady

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The Schenectady City Council is currently considering a proposal that aims to limit the placement of smoke and vape shops within the⁤ city to only four specific business and manufacturing ‌zoning districts.

On the 11th of March, ⁢the council put a three-month halt on the establishment ⁢of future smoke shops within the city. This was done to provide the ​council with ample time to develop zoning restrictions for smoke and vape shops⁣ that primarily ⁤focus on selling tobacco, electronic cigarettes, or vaping products.

The council ‍conducted a public hearing during its Monday night meeting to ⁤discuss a⁤ draft proposal of the zoning restrictions. The proposal suggests limiting smoke shops ​to the C-4 downtown mixed-use district, the C-5 business district, the M-1 light manufacturing and warehousing district, and the M-2 manufacturing and warehousing district.

The public hearing⁢ was concluded during Monday’s meeting, with⁢ a potential vote scheduled for the council’s next full meeting on May 13.

“Our aim is to keep these shops away from ​residential ​areas,” stated‌ City Council ⁣President Marion Porterfield after Monday’s meeting.

The proposed zoning also ‍prohibits these shops from operating within 1,000‌ feet of any ​residential lot, another smoke⁤ shop, and 2,000 feet⁣ of a school, park, library, or church.

Porterfield expressed her support for the restrictions, particularly those that would keep⁣ vape shops at a distance from city schools.

“Absolutely, because​ we don’t want children exposed ⁤to that,” she added.

According to the current proposal, smoke shops that are currently operating in residential zoning areas and C-1, C-2, and C-3 business districts will be prohibited ‍from operating one year after the zoning amendment is passed. However, they will ⁣have the opportunity to petition the city zoning‌ board for permission to continue operating beyond⁤ one year.

“So essentially, they​ have one year from the effective date of the amendment to continue operating,”⁣ Corporation Counsel Maxine Barasch explained on Tuesday. “If they wish to continue operating beyond that time, they’ll have to appeal to the zoning board of appeals if they’re ‍in a⁢ district where they’re non-conforming.”

The⁣ council first discussed a proposed six-month smoke shop moratorium last ⁣July, ⁣which‍ was eventually put on hold in August before⁤ being revisited in the‌ spring, with the council adopting⁢ a three-month moratorium in March.

Councilwoman Doreen Ditoro, a strong advocate for the smoke shop moratorium and zoning restrictions, stated that the council collaborated with the corporation counsel’s office to select the zoning ⁤districts where the shops will be permitted.

“I’m very ⁣pleased that my⁣ persistence paid off,” ‍she said.

During the public hearing for the proposed zoning changes during Monday night’s council meeting, resident Robert Sanders‌ was the only member of the public to voice his opinion, expressing ⁣his belief⁤ that the council was overstepping its⁤ boundaries by restricting ⁢the location of⁤ smoke shops.

“The next‌ thing you’re going to do is move all‌ of the bars into one section that you think are good for you,” Sanders told the council.

The⁤ smoke shop zoning restrictions do not apply to cannabis dispensaries in the city. ‌The Schenectady Planning Commission approved plans for the city’s second dispensary at its meeting⁣ on April 17.⁢ The proposed Grass & Goodness dispensary would be located at the​ Proforma retail​ complex at 1650 Crane St.

The City Council previously considered separate zoning restrictions on cannabis dispensaries last summer.

Barasch stated on Tuesday that the corporation counsel’s office is investigating the steps the City Council could take to implement cannabis zoning restrictions that will ⁤not conflict with state Office of Cannabis Management regulations.

“I ⁢believe we can do some zoning related to it,” she said. “We’re working on looking through the new state legislation to​ determine how we can effectuate zoning.”’

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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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