Riverhead extends hearing on loosening Recreational Cannabis zoning restrictions

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Riverhead extends hearing on loosening Recreational Cannabis zoning restrictions

Riverhead Mulls Easing Zoning Rules for Marijuana Shops.

The proposal would sharply increase the number of eligible sites from five to 144 by removing a 1,000 foot distance requirement from homes only along commercial corridors. Current zoning requires the shops to be 1,000 feet away from residences. Potential applicants said at a hearing Wednesday that it still leaves them with too few options.

Two town board members agreed, suggesting the town follow state zoning guidelines instead of stricter local ones established in 2022.

“When you put it to paper and try to make it work, it doesn’t,” supervisor Tim Hubbard said of the revision.

State guidelines say dispensaries cannot be on the same road and within 500 feet of school grounds.

It also recommends a 1,000 feet distance between dispensaries for towns like Riverhead that have more than 20,000 residents.

Nearly two dozen marijuana advocates cheered Hubbard, saying, “Let’s make it work” and “Let us open.”

Brian Stark of Merrick has a conditional state license but said finding a location remains a challenge. Some of the 144 sites are occupied or have landlords unwilling to lease to cannabis businesses.

“You’re not giving us anything to work with these maps,” Stark said.

More than a dozen applicants want to open dispensaries in Riverhead, but the town has rejected nearly all of them because they are too close to homes.

That requirement wiped out many shopping centers on Route 58, the town’s main commercial hub, since many abut residential neighborhoods.

Dispensaries must also be 1,000 feet from schools and libraries, 500 feet from playgrounds and churches and 2,500 feet apart.

Two pending applications could be eligible under the revised zoning, according to deputy town attorney Annemarie Prudenti.

Under the proposal, pot shops would be allowed closer than 1,000 feet from homes if they are located along five commercial corridors: Route 25A in Wading River, Middle Country Road in Calverton, Route 58 in Riverhead, Main Road in Aquebogue and Main Road in Jamesport.

Dispensaries are banned in downtown Riverhead.

Each corridor could have one marijuana dispensary with the exception of Route 58, where as many as seven dispensaries could open if spaced apart.

James Farley, 69, of Jamesport said a dispensary there could bring more traffic from the east, since Southold Town opted out of allowing marijuana sales.

He likened the scenario to “dry” towns barring alcohol sales in New England.

“It’s the townline dispensary,” he said. “We have all of Southold starving for a joint.”

The board could vote as early as March 5 after a written comment period closes March 1. 

Hubbard said delaying dispensaries from opening means a “staggering” loss of tax dollars.

Towns get 3% of revenue from recreational cannabis shops.

Babylon is home to the only state-licensed dispensaries on Long Island. One of those, Strain Stars, took in $13.3 million in its first three months, Newsday reported.

Last month, Babylon reduced the radius between residences and dispensaries from 1,000 feet to 750 feet.

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Region: New York

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