Jan. 25—The City of Niagara Falls may soon have retail marijuana stores, but some county leaders do not like how regulations are being implemented.
The Niagara County Planning Board unanimously decided to disapprove a zoning text amendment the Niagara Falls City Council approved a month ago, which allows for the cultivation, production and sale of recreational cannabis within the city. Despite this decision, the members knew their actions would have little affect on the city's implementation.
The county board members' objections ranged from not being specific on locations to the city seeing little financial benefit from having these businesses operate in the Falls.
"Honestly I cannot approve something that has no restrictions on it, that is carte blanche," said Chairman Joseph Kibler.
The Niagara Falls City Council had approved the changes a little more than a month ago, which put in place rules and regulations laid out by the state Office of Cannabis Management.
In the new ordinance, cannabis dispensaries engaging in sales only can operate between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., those that allow on-site consumption may operate from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m., and may not operate more than 70 hours a week. Retail dispensaries may not be located within 500 feet of a community facility while consumption dispensaries may not be within 200 feet of a house of worship, 500 feet of a school or "community facility," and 1,000 feet of similar operations. It also incorporates any restrictions the state has listed.
Retail establishments would be allowed to operate in city areas zoned either for Commercial or Downtown, which include Downtown Niagara Falls, Main Street, Pine Avenue, and along Niagara Falls Boulevard north of the LaSalle neighborhood. Areas zoned for industrial usage would allow for the cultivation of cannabis.
Kevin Forma, the city's planning director, said the directions that all municipalities received from the state are similar to liquor ordinances and the requirements for having a bar. The state was also restrictive in what the city can do for allowing and disallowing uses.
"The state is telling us that we cannot restrict this," Forma said while calling into the planner's meeting on Monday afternoon. "We're developing this to the best of our ability, managing this in conjunction with the state rules and regulations."
While the city's corporation counsel Chris Mazur said any new marijuana business opening may create situations where more tax revenue can come in, the state is in control of issuing licenses to these businesses.
The new ordinance took effect immediately following its approval by the Niagara Falls City Council.
While Kibler understood that the city has to go along with this because of state guidelines and would continue ahead anyway, he said that does not mean the planning board has to agree with it.
The Seneca Nation is also building its own marijuana dispensary in Niagara Falls, next to the Seneca One Shop fuel station at the corner of Niagara Street and John B. Daly Boulevard. None of the city's regulations apply to the Seneca dispensary.