The Village of New Paltz Planning Board is considering a special use permit for the opening of a marijuana dispensary at Zero Place, a mixed-use building at 87 North Chestnut Street.
Net-Zero Development, LLC is seeking approval for a retail use not currently listed in zoning for Zero Place for approximately 2,000 square-feet of retail space, plus an additional 800 square-feet of office and storage space. The property is listed in the Neighborhood Business Residential zone, and in addition to ground floor retail space, also has 25 two-bedroom and 21 one-bedroom units across three stories.
New York State, which legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2021, just began taking applications for retail dispensaries last week, with licensed sale expected to be underway by early 2023. While it’s unclear if and when a dispensary will open at Zero Place, the Planning Board recently focused its attention on traffic.
During a meeting of the Planning Board held on Tuesday, July 16, Carlito Holt, a planning engineer and partner at DTS Provident, discussed the hurdles in conducting a traffic study for a type of business that isn’t currently in operation anywhere in the state.
“Unfortunately, you’re dealing with a use that does not yet exist in the state of New York, so it makes it a little trickier,” Holt said.
The dispensary is likely to open as an appointment-only business for an indeterminate period of time to ensure the parking lot isn’t overwhelmed and unusable for residents and other retail tenants.
“What our review focused on is that I think the appointment-only system is a good system,” said Holt. “Obviously the applicant doesn’t want to have to employ that in perpetuity. So I think the other key component of that process is how do you monitor the demand based upon that appointment-only system to understand when you can start moving away from it?”
Holt said it would be critical to not only log the amount of appointments, but also the demand for appointments beyond the limit allowed. He added that if the dispensary at Zero Place is the first in the area, there would likely be higher demand than if there are other local options for consumers.
David Shepler, a partner at Zero Place, but not one of the dispensary applicants, addressed a series of traffic and congestion questions previously asked in writing by the Planning Board.
To begin with, the appointment-only system would mean no walkup business, and Shepler said anyone coming to the dispensary without an appointment would be directed to visit the business’s website to make one.
Shepler also called sending customers to the nearby Moriello Pool parking lot during overflow conditions a “contingency on a contingency.”
“If that were to occur, the attendant who was placed at the entrance to the parking lot would ask the driver where they’re visiting,” Shepler said. “Those who are residents and have the resident tag obviously are let straight in. If they’re visiting one of the other (businesses), they’re allowed in. If they’re coming for their designated (dispensary) appointment, they’re allowed in. The idea of someone who’s coming and trying to get an appointment and sort of sitting there idling, waiting for that appointment to come later, they would be directed by the parking attendant to the Moriello parking lot.”
Shepler said the request that deliveries to the dispensary be made before 10 a.m. was reasonable, if not particularly necessary.
“I think that might be a little bit onerous on the dispensary given they’re talking about one delivery a week, or at very maximum one delivery per day,” Shepler said. “But if 10 a.m. is the magic hour, then we’re happy to say it has to occur before 10 a.m.”
Shepler said he was concerned about over-monitoring of the parking lot, particularly as it concerned residents.
“I think that that would not be practical and would not be fair to our residents,” he said.“I don’t want them being interrogated every time they enter the parking lot.”
Shepler added that at present, there is only one operational business at Zero Place, a gym. A cafe and eco-friendly refillery will open soon, he added.
“Those will come online over the coming months,” Shepler said.
Shepler said he had concerns about how to best project future demand at the dispensary upon discontinuation of the appointment-only process. He cited an example given by consultant Phil Grealy, a principal at Colliers Engineering & Design, of the lasting demand at a new Trader Joe’s in New Jersey.
“He said he generally sees excitement lasting one to two months,” Shepler said. “We have no idea how long (the dispensary) demand is going to last, two days, two weeks, two months, who knows? Our belief was that two weeks of data would give us enough indication whether we’re still in the research period or not.”
Shepler said he was concerned that a recommendation by Holt that the initial demand research period be a month might be longer than necessary.
“What if the demand dies away within days and we’re held to the strict one-month monitoring period?” he said. “We’re really tying the hands of the dispensary, and that’s not a good place to be…My feeling is that two weeks is enough to have a strict limit and that we’ll know we’ll have enough data. But look, you tell me what that magic number is for the initial period that you want, whether it’s two weeks or a month and I’ll do that.”
Chairman John Litton asked that the conversation continue at the next Planning Board meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, September 6 to get the input of the full Board.