At the Village of New Paltz Planning Board meeting on Oct. 3, the board approved an application for a cannabis dispensary located where the old Stewart’s gas station stands at 98 N. Chestnut St. (Route 32).
The application, which was submitted back in January by Radi and Mohammed Serdah under the company New Paltz Bus Depot LLC, now has the approval to turn the building into a dispensary.
After New York state legalized adult-use marijuana in March 2021, people attempted to establish dispensaries to sell cannabis for recreational use. A license from the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is required, along with approval from local governments to open these businesses.
The OCM put a pause on applications for retail cannabis licenses back in August following a lawsuit filed by four veterans who said the process the OCM had in place prevented them from applying.
In an attempt to mitigate the problem of the lack of dispensaries due to this pause, “Cannabis Growers Showcases” have been started in many places across New York. In New Paltz, there is one held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening in the municipal parking lot behind Village Hall.
In September, the New York State Cannabis Control Board (CCB) voted to finalize the regulations proposed by the OCM for the adult-use cannabis market. With the approval from the CCB, applications were set to be accepted again on Oct. 4, 2023.
Now that New Paltz Bus Depot LLC has gotten approval from the village to use the space as a dispensary, they can now pursue a license from the state to sell recreational cannabis to adults.
Throughout their application process, a common problem that had been addressed by the Planning Board was the desire for a traffic study to show how a cannabis dispensary would impact traffic along N. Chestnut Street.
The Serdahs originally felt that they didn’t need to submit a study because of the proximity to the Zero Place building which had just conducted a study for the same purpose and because the building was already a high traffic property that had no negative traffic impacts on the road.
After some deliberation about whether that was allowed over a few meetings, the board eventually requested an independent study to be conducted by the applicants. The study they had done showed that as a gas station the property generated 77 trips per hour (both entrances and exits) during the week while as a cannabis dispensary it would generate 58 trips per hour. There would be a 25% decrease in traffic into and out of the property as a dispensary.
Chairman of the Planning Board, Zach Bialecki said on Oct. 3 that he felt the traffic study brought by the applicants was adequate. He said, “The cannabis market that the village has been having for the last several months now has also reduced some of that initial surge that might have taken place.”
Board Member Terry Dolan wasn’t as satisfied as Bialecki. “I still think that the fact is that this is, in the purest sense of the word, a unique retail operation in our village,” Dolan said. “Given the uniqueness of it, I think there will be the potential for traffic.”
Dolan said that he doesn’t want to risk having to put police officers out to direct traffic on N. Chestnut Street once the business opens because they didn’t plan accordingly for an influx of customers at the dispensary.
He continued voicing his concerns that he found it interesting that the village’s consultant expressed the need for a traffic mitigation plan and then retracted that, replacing it with a new opinion that doesn’t involve a mitigation plan.
“Opinions are just that ladies and gentlemen, opinions. They are not facts,” Dolan said. “We don’t know what is going to happen, so in my opinion we should plan to mitigate something that could happen given the uniqueness of the situation.”
He then said that ultimately he will agree with the opinion of the village’s consultant even though he believes they should plan for some form of traffic mitigation.
After hearing these concerns, the Serdahs revealed that they are going to work with the Plattekill PBA to help direct traffic at the grand opening, should they need it.
Radi Serdah said that since they are not the lessee, they do not know what opening day will look like for the dispensary. Whoever is running the dispensary may want to keep their grand opening quiet in which case the Plattekill PBA will not be needed since less traffic will be anticipated. However, if the lessee decides to have a larger opening, there will be traffic enforcement present to keep Route 32 running smoothly.
Ultimately, the board decided that a traffic mitigation plan would only need to be utilized if the tenant of 98 N. Chestnut St. anticipates a large crowd on opening day. If they intend on having a soft opening then no traffic mitigation plan is necessary.
The review period of the application closed with a motion made for the village attorney to draft a resolution of approval with the new conditions of traffic mitigation included. The Planning Board’s approval of the application was noted at the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 11 where they stated that the applicants now just need an adult-use cannabis license from the OCM to operate a dispensary at the location.