SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady City Council is referring a proposed six-month moratorium on new smoke and vape shops in the city to the county for its feedback on the proposal.
The council voted during its Monday meeting to send the proposal to the Schenectady County Planning Agency in the next stop of the moratorium process, with the county agency having 30 days to provide comment on the draft ordinance.
Under the proposal, the city would put a temporary pause on the establishment of smoke shops in the city while the council weighs zoning restrictions on the location of future vape and tobacco shops in the city.
County Economic Development And Planning Commissioner Ray Gillen said the planning department has yet to receive the draft ordinance from the city and could not comment on the specifics of the proposed moratorium.
Gillen said that he and the county planning staff would review the moratorium and provide comments on the proposal.
“The county believes in smart growth and in good planning for projects,” he said on Friday. “So when communities have projects, in many cases they are required to refer them to us for review. We review them and provide comments back. It’s something we do all the time. It’s standard procedure and when we get this we’ll review it just like every other proposal.”
Gillen said the department should provide comments to the city on the proposal within several weeks of receiving the draft ordinance.
City Councilwoman Carmel Patrick said she would take a wait-and-see approach to the proposed moratorium as the council awaits the county’s input.
“I would have to say that’s where I’m at,” she said on Friday. “I’m in that mode now to see what happens when we send it to the county.”
Schenectady Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin told the council during its Sept. 5 City Development and Planning committee meeting that the council is not obligated to enact the moratorium after it submits the proposal to the county for review.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy recommended during the committee meeting that the council refer the proposal to the county for its feedback.
Chief Building Inspector Nayeem Abzal has been conducting enforcement efforts to bring existing smoke shops who opened without city permits into compliance.
“I definitely think that we need to continue those enforcement activities and make sure that, especially in terms of any illegal sales that are happening in the existing shops,” Patrick said. “I’m in favor of the work that they’re doing and that they’ve stepped up recently.”
The council is separately weighing zoning restrictions for future cannabis dispensaries in the city, with the proposed smoke shop moratorium not pertaining to Upstate Canna Co. on upper Union Street or any future cannabis stores in the city.
“The legalization of cannabis by the State of New York has yielded an influx in inquiries regarding cannabis uses, and an influx of smoke and vape shops throughout the City providing ancillary goods and services,” the proposed moratorium states.
The city draft ordinance notes that while the state Office of Cannabis Management has implemented a substantial regulatory process regarding cannabis uses and has delineated some zoning restrictions for cannabis dispensaries, similar state regulations do not exist for smoke and vape shops that sell tobacco and smoking paraphernalia.