Yes, to New Hyde Park self-storage, no to weed sales

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New Hyde Park Mayor Christopher Devane and Deputy Mayor Madhvi Nijjar approved a special use permit for a self-storage facility at Thursday evenings public meeting. Trustees also voted to opt out of licensing retail marijuana dispensaries in the village. (Photo by Samuele Petruccelli)

The New Hyde Park board of trustees voted on two major decisions for the village: approving the special use permit for a self-storage facility and opting out of licensing retail marijuana dispensaries.

In a public meeting last Thursday evening, trustees voted in favor of allowing a three-story, self-storage building to be built at 300 South 12th St. The vote was unanimous, though not after amendments to the building’s façade landscape design.

More than half the windows were removed and tinted black, parking lot traffic patterns were readjusted for one-way travel, and grass and evergreen trees were added along the property line.

Andrea Tsoukalas Curto, attorney for the applicant, presented her client’s plan to the board of trustees. She pointed to the amended landscape design as giving a “nice residential feel,” addressing previous concerns.

Also identified at Thursday’s meeting, a continuation from a June 17 hearing, was the location of signage.

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“We’re proposing to put it on Third Avenue and South 12th St., and we will accept a condition not to place signage on the south side of the building,” Curto said. “We understand that’s where all the residences are and we don’t need it there anyway.”

Board approval is required for the construction of any new building greater than 2,500 square feet. A previous proposal for the project was deemed in violation of village code and denied by the board in April.

“We are the capital of self-storage places,” Mayor Christopher Devane said. “I’m sure there are 10 other different things we may want to see there, but the bottom line is it’s zoned that way and they’re within the code and this is where we’re at.”

Though the applicant’s special use permit was approved, the village did not extend the same courtesy to potential marijuana dispensaries. In a unanimous vote, trustees opted out of permitting licensing retail cannabis within New Hyde Park.

Village officials did not respond to requests for an interview, but in a brief email response stated their opposition to the recent statewide legalization of cannabis, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The Village of New Hyde Park has grave concerns about the legalization of marijuana and the effects on the village, its residents and the overall quality of life,” Devane said.

The move follows in the footsteps of the adjacent village of Floral Park, which opted out last June, but not before hearing concerns from Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald.

“I personally don’t think the potential revenue would outweigh any of the social costs,” Fitzgerald said. “Therefore, I vote aye.”

Under the new state law, consumption and smoking of cannabis is now legal throughout the state wherever smoking tobacco is legal, though the Nassau County legislature recently banned cannabis smoking and vaping on all county-owned property. Municipalities can opt out of allowing retail sale of the drug, but they will not get to share in any generated tax revenue.

Additional revenue for the village is something to consider, according to DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project, a nationwide advocacy organization for marijuana legalization.

“A lot of municipalities are trying to figure out what’s best for their communities,” Ward said. “But essentially all they’re doing is shutting down their towns from the revenue.”

Ward referred to the potential of a 4 percent local tax as a revenue generator for governments that could be applied to streetscaping or civic engagement. One municipality in Colorado even using it for funding school construction, Ward said.

The opt out may not be permanent, however. Residents can petition the outcome of the recent vote, which if successful triggers a process that places the law on the ballot at the next state or local election.

“If towns want to take a moratorium-type pause where they take some time to really right size this issue for their particular town, I think that’s appropriate,” Ward said. “But an outright ban I think is bad public policy in the long term and in the short term, and that they’ll miss out on the revenue that can be generated.”

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