Brookhaven, a town on Long Island, is facing challenges in the retail cannabis sector due to its restrictive zoning laws. Cannabis entrepreneurs, like Hugo Rivas, have struggled to find suitable locations for dispensaries, leading to frustration and financial losses.
Rivas, who has a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary license, has filed multiple applications with the Town of Brookhaven but has been unsuccessful in securing a location. The town’s zoning requirements restrict retail cannabis stores to L1 (light industrial) zones, which severely limits the available options.
Brian Stark, another licensed operator, echoes Rivas’ sentiments, stating that there is virtually no availability in the L1 zones. The limited options include expensive renovations of abandoned buildings or warehouses, which are not financially feasible for retail operations. Additionally, the lack of vehicle and foot traffic in these areas raises concerns about security and potential break-ins.
The town’s zoning code also imposes a 1,000-foot setback from several public and semi-public places, such as schools, religious institutions, parks, and libraries. This requirement, not mandated by the state, further hinders the search for suitable locations.
While other towns on Long Island have opted out of the state’s recreational cannabis program, Brookhaven has chosen to participate but with strict zoning regulations. This has discouraged potential cannabis entrepreneurs, and if the town does not update its regulations, lawsuits from members of the Long Island Cannabis Coalition may be imminent.
The population of Brookhaven is around 500,000, and it encompasses Fire Island, a popular tourist spot where there are no L1 zones. Applicants have criticized the town’s handling of their inquiries, with claims that properties were rejected for not meeting zoning requirements.
Brookhaven spokesman Jack Krieger responded to the criticism by stating that no formal applications have been denied. However, he acknowledged that inquiries have been for properties outside the designated zoning areas or in proximity to restricted locations, as outlined in the zoning code.
Licensed operators like Albert Capraro, who owns his own building in the Village of Patchogue, have also faced roadblocks in Brookhaven. Capraro, who had a marijuana conviction that impacted his job prospects, desires a change in the town’s stance to move forward with his business.
The situation in Brookhaven highlights the urgency for updated regulations and guidelines from the Office of Cannabis Management. The hope is that these guidelines will address location requirements and prevent discrimination against dispensaries. If no changes are made, lawsuits from the Long Island Cannabis Coalition may be the next step.
Despite the potential tax revenue that the town could generate from the cannabis industry, some applicants feel that Brookhaven is not interested in pursuing this opportunity. The need for a change in the town’s perspective is evident if it wants to tap into the benefits of the retail cannabis market.