Philipstown Opts Out of Pot Shops – for Now

Also restricts development at Upland Drive-Ridge Road

The Town Board voted 5-0 last week to prohibit cannabis establishments in Philipstown, at least at present.

“Philipstown opts out,” Supervisor Richard Shea announced at a Nov. 4 meeting at Town Hall after passage of the ban on retail sales and on-site consumption. However, he added, “I’m sure this is not the end of the discussion.” 

The decision does not affect Philipstown’s two villages. Cold Spring put the issue on the Nov. 2 ballot; Nelsonville has not yet taken action.

Facing a Dec. 31 deadline, Shea and other board members said they lack sufficient time to revise town laws to regulate marijuana stores and lounges. When New York State legalized cannabis in March, it gave municipalities until the end of the year to decide whether to accept such establishments. Those that fail to opt out by Dec. 31 cannot reverse course, while those that opt out now can opt back in later.

Philipstown residents also can petition to place the question on a future ballot.

The Cold Spring Village Board voted in July to opt out but also sent the question to the ballot. The vote was close enough that the result will be not be clear until absentee ballots are counted next week. Like Nelsonville, Beacon so far has not taken a position.

Intermittently, over several months, the Town Board considered the issue. At a public hearing on Oct. 7, some residents advocated opting in. Nonetheless, “I haven’t been swayed,” Shea said Nov. 4. He noted that the state is unlikely to issue retail licenses until at least 2023, giving Philipstown “plenty of time to consider this. By opting out, we keep our options open.”

Councilor Robert Flaherty said that if residents want the board to revisit the matter in the months ahead, “we’ll be open to that.”

Councilor Jason Angell, who was elected to a four-year term on Nov. 2 after filling a vacancy, described the issue as “complicated” and said he is open to having a retail store in Philipstown, but “don’t feel open to an on-site consumption spot.” 

Angell added that the state allows cannabis use anywhere smoking tobacco is legal, a situation that raises doubts about the need for lounges. Regarding “liquor and cannabis — I personally have enjoyed both” and understand that “all these things are, in excess, dangerous,” he said. He recommended more intense public campaigns to spread awareness.

Councilor John Van Tassel, who said he was speaking as a father of two teens and who was elected on Nov. 2 as the next supervisor, took a harder line. “There’s no way I have the ability or the want to endorse sale and/or on-site consumption of cannabis,” he said. “I just don’t think smoking is a healthy thing to promote,” no matter what is smoked. 

Councilor Judy Farrell also mentioned health concerns. “Our role is to look at the impact on our town. We’re already seeing the impact of substance abuse from alcohol and opioids,” she said.

Rocks and roads

In other business, the board voted 5-0 to restrict development in the area of Upland Drive and Ridge Road because of the mountainous terrain and other natural features.

The board said it took action because of pressure for new homes and the potential sale by Putnam County of property it owns in the area. Shea said he has urged County Executive MaryEllen Odell not to sell its tracts for housing.

The measure affects Upland Drive, which runs between Winston Lane and Old Albany Post Road; Cliffside Court, a dead-end off Upland Drive; and Ridge Road between Aqueduct Road and Sky Lane. 

Under the new rules, buildable lots must be at least 2 acres; impervious surfaces can’t cover more than 10 percent of a lot; and a project involving a slope of 30 percent or more will need a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

A second law, also approved unanimously, mandates that access routes to new developments in Philipstown with 10 or more lots comply with public road requirements unless the Planning Board exempts them. Access to developments with up to nine lots must include a 14-foot “travel-way,” with an 8-inch base of compacted gravel or crushed stone; enough drainage “to prevent water from crossing the surface”; and grades that safely accommodate cars, emergency vehicles and snow and ice removal. 

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2 thoughts on “Philipstown Opts Out of Pot Shops – for Now

  1. It’s outrageous that the Philipstown Town Board voted to “opt out” of allowing retail cannabis sales and on-site consumption. The Town Board is so out to touch with the needs and wants of our community. [via Instagram]

  2. The Town Board conducted a thoughtful, deliberative process before this vote. I listened to the views and experiences of many Philipstown residents of all ages, from parents to senior citizens, from recovering addicts to devastated families, com-munity leaders, school leaders and mental-health counselors. Our decisions as town leaders must be based on the best interests of all Philipstown residents. That’s leadership and good government. It is not driven by those who stand to profit but represents all our citizens. [via Instagram]

    Farrell is a member of the Philipstown Town Board.

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