Strain Stars in the Town of Babylon, where officials have...

Strain Stars in the Town of Babylon, where officials have proposed loosening zoning for state-licensed brick-and-mortar recreational cannabis dispensaries. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Babylon Town wants to loosen restrictions on where recreational cannabis dispensaries can open locally, adding dozens of potential locations for the marijuana retail shops, according to the town supervisor.

The town is proposing a radius of 750 feet instead of 1,000 feet when it comes to the distance separating dispensaries from residences. A public hearing on the proposal will take place at 3 p.m. on Dec. 6 at Town Hall.

Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said Babylon is working to find a balance between opening up more sites to marijuana sales and keeping homeowners happy.

He said the state had recommended a distance of 500 feet from residences, which town officials didn’t feel was “an adequate buffer" from shops.

Schaffer said the potential reduction to 750 feet would add additional land parcels for the shops, but not “where we thought it would cause an issue with homeowners.”

Babylon is home to the only state-licensed brick-and-mortar recreational marijuana shop in operation on Long Island. 

Strain Stars, which opened in East Farmingdale in July, has done as much as $1.5 million in cannabis sales a week, taking in about $13.3 million in its first three months, Newsday previously reported. Under state law, Babylon gets to keep 3% of the revenue from cannabis retail shops, town officials said.

Gahrey Ovalle, president of the trade group Long Island Cannabis Coalition, praised Babylon for potentially creating more sites for dispensaries.

“We’re hoping this signals to the other towns, you need to do more, you have to open up space and make it possible for cannabis business retail to exist in these townships,” he said.

But the reduction in distance to residences is a step too far, said Lori-Ann Novello, executive director of Babylon Cares, a community organization that aims to reduce substance abuse.

“The setbacks were put in for a reason,” she said. ”How many compromises are there going to be?”

Babylon, Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton are the only Long Island towns to allow retail pot sales. The towns have zoning restrictions on where the shops can open, leading some potential applicants to complain that the regulations have left them with few storefront options, Newsday has reported.

In Riverhead, the town's business advisory committee has urged local legislators to reconsider zoning restrictions on pot shops that include a 1,000 foot distance from homes.

In Babylon, other zoning restrictions require that recreational pot dispensaries only be located in industrially zoned areas outside a 200-foot radius of religious properties and a 500-foot radius of schools, libraries, parks and any other areas "where minors congregate."

Schaffer noted that even if the new measure passes, all applicants still have to get a special permit from the town's zoning board.

In addition, the town is proposing a new requirement that those seeking to open a retail pot shop have a licensed design professional certify that the potential dispensary site meets all setback requirements, according to Matt McDonough, an outside attorney for the town. 

Town records show there are five potential dispensaries in the process of seeking approval from the town, including two in East Farmingdale that have site plan reviews pending before the planning department.

The town last month approved other changes to its cannabis store requirements, adding sites used for marijuana delivery services under its definition of a retail dispensary and passing a measure allowing town officials to take action if a landlord leases space to an unlicensed pot retailer.

“We knew that when we first entered into this world that this was going to be a learning experience and we would have to tweak rules and go over issues as they come up,” Schaffer said.

With Tara Smith

Babylon Town wants to loosen restrictions on where recreational cannabis dispensaries can open locally, adding dozens of potential locations for the marijuana retail shops, according to the town supervisor.

The town is proposing a radius of 750 feet instead of 1,000 feet when it comes to the distance separating dispensaries from residences. A public hearing on the proposal will take place at 3 p.m. on Dec. 6 at Town Hall.

Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said Babylon is working to find a balance between opening up more sites to marijuana sales and keeping homeowners happy.

He said the state had recommended a distance of 500 feet from residences, which town officials didn’t feel was “an adequate buffer" from shops.

Schaffer said the potential reduction to 750 feet would add additional land parcels for the shops, but not “where we thought it would cause an issue with homeowners.”

Babylon is home to the only state-licensed brick-and-mortar recreational marijuana shop in operation on Long Island. 

Strain Stars, which opened in East Farmingdale in July, has done as much as $1.5 million in cannabis sales a week, taking in about $13.3 million in its first three months, Newsday previously reported. Under state law, Babylon gets to keep 3% of the revenue from cannabis retail shops, town officials said.

Gahrey Ovalle, president of the trade group Long Island Cannabis Coalition, praised Babylon for potentially creating more sites for dispensaries.

“We’re hoping this signals to the other towns, you need to do more, you have to open up space and make it possible for cannabis business retail to exist in these townships,” he said.

But the reduction in distance to residences is a step too far, said Lori-Ann Novello, executive director of Babylon Cares, a community organization that aims to reduce substance abuse.

“The setbacks were put in for a reason,” she said. ”How many compromises are there going to be?”

Babylon, Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton are the only Long Island towns to allow retail pot sales. The towns have zoning restrictions on where the shops can open, leading some potential applicants to complain that the regulations have left them with few storefront options, Newsday has reported.

In Riverhead, the town's business advisory committee has urged local legislators to reconsider zoning restrictions on pot shops that include a 1,000 foot distance from homes.

In Babylon, other zoning restrictions require that recreational pot dispensaries only be located in industrially zoned areas outside a 200-foot radius of religious properties and a 500-foot radius of schools, libraries, parks and any other areas "where minors congregate."

Schaffer noted that even if the new measure passes, all applicants still have to get a special permit from the town's zoning board.

In addition, the town is proposing a new requirement that those seeking to open a retail pot shop have a licensed design professional certify that the potential dispensary site meets all setback requirements, according to Matt McDonough, an outside attorney for the town. 

Town records show there are five potential dispensaries in the process of seeking approval from the town, including two in East Farmingdale that have site plan reviews pending before the planning department.

The town last month approved other changes to its cannabis store requirements, adding sites used for marijuana delivery services under its definition of a retail dispensary and passing a measure allowing town officials to take action if a landlord leases space to an unlicensed pot retailer.

“We knew that when we first entered into this world that this was going to be a learning experience and we would have to tweak rules and go over issues as they come up,” Schaffer said.

With Tara Smith

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