New Haven sees debate over cannabis dispensary zoning
The City of New Haven Adult-Use Cannabis Zoning Ordinance prohibits Cannabis establishments of any kind in all residential zones.
The Board of Alders recently approved the City of New Haven Adult-Use Cannabis Zoning Ordinance, which details neighborhoods where future dispensaries are able to open in the Elm City.
Connecticut legalized the use of recreational adult-use marijuana in July of last year and gave municipalities the authority to regulate the land use and zoning of adult-use Cannabis establishments. On Aug. 1, the Board of Alders approved the ordinance.
According to Laura Brown, city plan department executive director, the city is not responsible for choosing locations for specific establishments, but can restrict where some establishments are located based on their license type through zoning ordinance. There are no current approved locations, but the City Plan has received an application for a special permit retail dispensary at 1351 Whalley Avenue that will likely be heard in October. The City of New Haven Adult-Use Cannabis Zoning Ordinance prohibits Cannabis establishments of any kind in all residential zones.
“We expect to see the first dispensary approved and in operation in the first quarter of 2023.” Brown wrote in an email to the News. “It is too early to forecast the number of retailers in New Haven. The state process is highly competitive, and many retailers are looking for high-visibility locations, many of which are located along highways corridors around the region.”
The Elicker Administration’s original cannabis zoning proposal would have allowed the sale of cannabis in the Port District, but prohibited it on Long Wharf. However, during a June 7 meeting, the Board of Alders Legislation Committee approved a cannabis zoning amendment. The amendment legalized the sale of cannabis in areas of Long Wharf, north of Water Street, east of the New Haven Harbor, south of Hallock Avenue, and west of Union Avenue. The amendment also prohibited the sale of cannabis in Port District, in addition to areas that overlap with the River Street Municipal Development Plan, as well as the Hill to Downtown Plan.
The New Haven Independent reported that during the June 7 meeting, local attorney Mark Sklarz, New Haven Food Terminal President Francis Lettiero and Hill resident Robert Hart argued that cannabis sale should be legalized in Long Wharf because its highway-adjacent location allows it to host a high-traffic business with minimal disruption to neighbors.
The New Haven Food Terminal could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.
“New Haven port is actually the busiest port in the state of Connecticut.” Sally Kruse, the executive director of the Port Authority, said to the News. “It is important to not only New Haven but to the region, and the land is very confined, using it for bringing in more lumber for building or bringing in more steel [might be] a better use. So we think it should be included in the list of prohibited districts.”
During the meeting, Crystal Gooding, chair of the Dixwell Community Management Team, called for a cannabis prohibition in Dixwell.
“Because the populations are the children and seniors,” Gooding said. “You know, kids getting out of school, seniors milling around, coming out of their homes…we just felt like it wasn’t suitable for that neighborhood.”
Gooding said that the city should do more research on the operation and facility zoning for cannabis and speak to city officials whose cities have legalized the sale of cannabis years before. “We don’t want to inflict what could be more addiction on neighborhoods [that] had been playing victim. We’re trying to change that trajectory of the inner city.” Gooding said.
The Board of Alders Legislation Committee found that the Dixwell neighborhood does not meet the zoning criteria for cannabis sales.
Citywide, residents of purple areas will have an opportunity to meet license holders as part of the special permit process with an expectation that every new business will not only comply with the letter of the law but also respect the quality of life in the area, according to Brown.
The city will evaluate the current zoning ordinance within the next year based on resident feedback and the effectiveness of the ordinance in ensuring resident safety.
According to state data, 9.4 percent of Connecticut adults used marijuana one or more times in the last 30 days.