Nelsonville Moves Toward ‘Opting Out’ of Cannabis Law

Discussion of short-term rental regulation continues

Nelsonville took steps this week toward “opting out” of allowing retail cannabis shops and lounges within its borders, following a municipal path already partly trod by Cold Spring and Philipstown.

At its monthly meeting on Monday (Oct. 18), the Nelsonville Village Board voted 4-0 to convene a public hearing on Nov. 15 to allow residents to comment on draft legislation in which the village declines to allow marijuana establishments, a new form of commercial venture that were legalized in New York state earlier this year.

The Cold Spring Village Board voted this summer to put the question on the Nov. 2 ballot, while the Philipstown Town Board continues to debate a draft resolution that it plans to vote on before Dec. 31. Municipalities that do not opt out by the end of the year automatically opt in and cannot change that position. But those that opt out can later opt in, which gives them time to adjust zoning codes to cover cannabis businesses. 

“As of right now, it is our intent, I believe, to opt out,” Nelsonville Mayor Michael Bowman announced in putting the draft law on the table. He said that after soliciting public comments on Nov. 15, the board would vote in December. He also noted that citizens who want to permit marijuana establishments can collect voter signatures to put the issue on the ballot during the March village election. 

Before taking up the cannabis shop measure and routine matters, the board held a public hearing on its latest draft of a law to regulate short-term rentals (STRs), such as weekend and vacation rooms and apartments arranged through Airbnb. The board has pondered the matter, off and on, for several years.

The handful of residents who turned out included those on both sides of the issue.

Favoring long-term renters over a constantly changing stream of overnight visitors in the community, David Herman said that “I much prefer knowing who my neighbors are.” 

Rudy Van Dommele, who operates Airbnb units, persistently questioned the need for a law. “You’re trying to correct something that is not a problem yet and is just based on fear,” he said.

Erin Muir criticized a provision in the draft law limiting rentals to 100 days annually. “That just feels so unfair,” she said.

A 100-day cap “would make this financially unviable for us,” added Ethan Timm. He compared various restrictions in the draft to an anti-automobile law. “I don’t like traffic, but we don’t say we ban cars.” 

Trustee Kathleen Maloney suggested that instead of a 100-day cap on rentals the village limit the number of annual bookings, accommodating both STR owners and renters who want to stay for weeks or months at a time.

“It’s something to discuss,” Bowman replied.

He said the board would continue to accept letters on the issue and refine the draft but that there are no plans for a vote in the immediate future. 

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