East Hampton zoning board approves cannabis regulations

The East Hampton Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved regulations for recreational cannabis at its Oct. 5 meeting.

The East Hampton Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved regulations for recreational cannabis at its Oct. 5 meeting.

Town of East Hampton / Contributed photo

EAST HAMPTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission last week voted unanimously to adopt zoning regulations that would permit cannabis retailers and cultivators to operate in certain zones.

They will become effective Oct. 25, at which point the town's moratorium on retail cannabis applications will end, planning officials said. Originally enacted in October 2021, the moratorium had been extended by the Town Council until Dec. 31.

Board members said they were determined to finalize some version of cannabis regulations at their Oct. 5 meeting after having discussed the matter for several months. The regulations aren't set in stone, they said, and agreed to revisit them in the future and make revisions if necessary.

"If we see something glaring that we want to change, we can change it over the next couple of months," PZC Chair Ray Zatorski said. "This is a great start."

According to the regulations, every cannabis retailer or cultivator who proposes to open in East Hampton will be required to obtain a special permit. Once that is granted, recreational cannabis facilities won't be allowed to open until they receive a license from the state's Department of Consumer Protection.

The adopted zoning rules place some restrictions on cannabis businesses, such as hours of operation and proximity from certain institutions. The commission chose to require cannabis facilities to follow the same hours that the state enforces for liquor stores: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Cannabis facilities must also be located at least 500 feet from the property lines of schools, churches, libraries and charitable institutions.

The regulations allow retailers, hybrid retailers — those selling both medical and recreational cannabis — and medical dispensaries to operate in the commercial, industrial and Village Center zones. Cultivators and micro-cultivators are allowed to operate in the industrial and design development zones.

Town Planner Jeremy DeCarli told the commission that the old Bank of America building in the Stop & Shop Parking lot on East High Street would be an ideal location for such a facility, because it has sufficient parking and good traffic circulation. However, the building is situated near Bethlehem Lutheran Church, which could make it difficult for a cannabis retailer to open there, he added.

But if the commission agrees to allow a cannabis business at that location, DeCarli added, it could reduce the distance requirements for churches and religious institutions, or remove those facilities from the list altogether.

Zatorski advocated for the new regulations to be more restrictive in nature to safeguard against future changes that may result from the state again revising its adult-use cannabis bill.

"This is all brand new. We have everything from production down to retail, and everything in between," Zatorski said, referring to the various categories of cannabis establishments outlined in the regulations.

"Be a little more restrictive, and we can get a little looser. It’s always more difficult to make something more restrictive once it’s out there," he added.

In July, the Town Council voted 5-0-1 to allow the board to begin the process of creating regulations for all eight license categories of recreational cannabis. The vote effectively signaled that a majority of council members approved allowing those establishments to operate in East Hampton.

"The intent of these regulations is to minimize any adverse impacts of such (cannabis) facilities, and to protect and preserve East Hampton’s neighborhoods, commercial areas, property values and quality of life," the document states.

The commission heard comments from only one person during last week's public hearing on the proposed regulations. Andrew Simonow, an East Hampton resident and developer, spoke in favor of the rules, saying they were more clear and concise than those in other towns going through a similar process.

Simonow's development company, 6 West Ave, LLC, has submitted a handful of applications for cannabis retailers within the last year, including proposals in Portland and Cromwell that were recently approved.

Simonow said he believes the town should only allow one pot facility to operate in town, arguing that it would prevent market saturation, and yield the best situation for finding a "good operator."

Some PZC members disagreed, though, with Zatorski saying that would be akin to "creating a monopoly."

He left open the possibility of submitting an application in the future.

"I have partners that I could get to come to the town that I know are good operators, so I’m in favor of [a cap] to protect my own town and my own resources," the developer said.

austin.mirmina@hearstmediact.com