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The Latest on Catskill Mountain Cannabis Facility

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/12/24 | 4/12/24


TANNERSVILLE — The Town of Hunter Planning Board convened for a second public comment meeting on April 2 to discuss the proposed Catskill Mountain Cannabis grow and packaging facility. Situated at the intersection of Platte Clove Road and Farrell Road in Elka Park, the proposed 10,800-square-foot facility by applicant/resident Alexander Zivian has stirred significant controversy in the community.

Attendees overflowed the meeting space, underscoring the gravity of the issue for residents of Elka Park and its environs.

The various concerns area residents raised regarding the facility's potential adverse effects are central to the debate. Worries include potential odor, air quality degradation, security risks, and noise pollution from emergency generators, compressors, and HVAC systems. Additionally, concerns were raised regarding possible impacts on water quality and the volume of water usage.

In response to these apprehensions, Zivian sought to assuage fears by outlining proposed solutions. He plans to implement a water reclamation system to reduce daily water consumption from 1,000 to approximately 300 gallons. Previous articles described a max water draw of 900 gallons, which was recently updated on the site plan. Furthermore,  Zivian stated he would have a security plan designed by a professional which will include infrared cameras, and update the site plan accordingly. Zivian intends to use minimal lighting to mitigate environmental disruptions.

Olivia Hamele-Coughlin, a veteran police sergeant and long-time Elka Park resident, expressed deep reservations about the project's potential impact on the community, stating, "This commercial development in our rural neighborhood will only benefit one individual to the detriment of many others."

Marcia Johnson, an Elka Park resident supportive of legal cannabis but against the proposed project, presented the Planning Board with a report highlighting the experiences of other communities in states where cannabis operations are legal. Johnson emphasized the significant responsibilities associated with regulating the burgeoning industry, and referred to the state’s blundering rollout of legal weed.

Czermerys told his Board that the Town of Hunter Board had requested an outside engineer review the plans, with Zivian covering the cost. In response, Zivian said, "I am concerned that if the Town Planning Board requires local engineer oversight as a condition of the permit, it could add unnecessary expense to my project. I am already required to have my own engineer to work with state regulatory authorities. I will be consistently under the state's microscope throughout the startup process, continuing throughout the business's life."

Many public commenters have mentioned the potential ruination of the Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway (MCSB), a 41-mile state-designated byway traversing the region, which includes County Route 16. MCSB President David Kukle, who also sits on the Hunter Town Board, read a letter from the MCSB to the Planning Board. "Based on our understanding, the proposed project does not sound like it will adversely affect the Scenic Byway. In particular, the size and location of the building on the parcel would not be visible, and the lighting features would be negligible. We fully respect the neighborhood's apprehension regarding the project and trust local oversight will hopefully address the concerns raised. With respect to the potential odor, we expect the mitigation to eliminate or greatly reduce noxious smells. We would encourage the Town to be proactive in assessing the benefits of zoning to avoid potential future projects that may be contrary to the intent of the Town's Comprehensive Plan and the Mountain Cloves corridor management plan. We all have a responsibility to safeguard the scenic resources that are a hallmark of the scenic byway experience."

Planning Board Chair Marc Czermerys emphasized the Board's commitment to comprehensive public engagement during the meeting. He stressed the importance of community feedback in informing the Board's decisions, acknowledging the shared reverence for the region's natural beauty. Czermerys said, "I'm trying to give time for more public input because I understand how the public feels."

Planning Board Member Penny Sikalis-Spring said, "We feel confident that we are doing our due diligence to do the right thing for the community as a whole."

Planning Board Member Joe Zecca added, "We are all members of this community. We live here. My property is on Platte Clove Road. My personal outlook will have nothing to do with what I vote on. We are bound by certain laws." He added, "There's been talk of this [project] being a crime magnet... I think that's at the bottom of the list [of concerns].

According to Gavin Vuillaume, who represents the Saratoga-based Environmental Design Partnership engineering firm, the site plan now includes a 1,500-gallon underground water holding tank that will be attached to the well and be used in an emergency. 

Athena Billias, a resident of the nearby Village of Tannersville, highlighted the community's interconnectedness due to the absence of zoning regulations. "We have to trust each other," she said.

Town of Hunter Police Sergeant Robert Haines (and others) raised concerns about the financial viability of Zivian's proposed business, urging the Board to consider potential repercussions if it failed.

Czermerys reiterated the Board's commitment to a thorough review and community engagement. The next Planning Board meeting on May 7 at 6:30 p.m. will not be a public comment session, although residents can still submit public comments via email or snail mail.


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