Amenia discusses zone change for housing; opting-in to cannabis

AMENIA — A zone change being requested by Hudson River Housing to allow for seven one-bedroom/one-bath rental units as part of its affordable housing proposal for Spruce Hill was discussed by the Amenia Town Board at its regular meeting Thursday, Feb. 1.

The Town Board’s role at this point is to hear the request and vote to send the requested zone change on to the Amenia Planning Board.

The town has been considering the proposal since summer 2022, when Hudson River Housing presented its preliminary plans at a public forum. Subsequent Housing Board meetings have determined that a zone change would be a preferable course of action.

The zone change request, if approved, would extend the abutting Hamlet Residential zone (HR) to the entire Hudson River Housing acreage. An HR zone would permit the proposed rental apartments as well as the proposed duplex units that would offer affordable home ownership opportunities.

Neighboring residents have raised several concerns about drainage, septic, traffic and other issues. Housing Board Chairman Charlie Miller said that those concerns can be raised at the time that a site plan is drawn and reviewed by the Planning Board, further along in the process.

“The town plan calls for the development of workforce” — or affordable — “housing,” Miller said, asking that the Town Board act to refer the zoning change to the town Planning Board and Dutchess County Planning for review.

Town attorney Ian Lindars confirmed that the change in zoning expands an already existing HR zone that abuts the property.

“I personally feel that a zone change is justified,” said Town Supervisor Leo Blackman, noting that the town needs affordable housing.

“The community needs workforce housing,” Councilman Paul Winters agreed, adding that Hudson River Housing is presenting a good plan for affordable housing.

“Having the zone change would not mean that the development would go ahead,” Councilwoman Rosanna Hamm said. “Residents’ concerns need to be addressed by the site plan process and public hearings.”

Lindars agreed to review any legal issues that may be connected to the zone change and report his findings at the next Town Board meeting. His report could be followed by a vote on sending the zone change on to the Planning Board for review.

Cannabis conversation continues

The Town Board also agreed to consider a resolution that would schedule a preliminary hearing to measure public sentiment on whether cannabis should be publicly available locally.

To be discussed is whether the town wants to opt in to the state process to allow for cannabis business licensing through the state Cannabis Control Board.

Cannabis growing and dispensing was legalized by the state in 2021, creating a process through which residents could submit applications to grow or sell the substance. The town can decide whether or not to “opt in.”

If the drafted resolution is approved at the Feb. 15 Town Board meeting, then the preliminary public hearing would be held Thursday, March 7. Residents’ comments at that public hearing will assist the Town Board with its deliberations about whether to draft an opt-in resolution.

“We are proposing getting marijuana off the local black market,” said Councilman Paul Winters, who strongly favors opting in.

Councilman Brad Rebillard commented that black-market marijuana can be laced with other drugs, including fentanyl.

“What good would come to the public from opting in,” was a question posed by Rebillard for the public hearing.

Noting that it has been two years since the last public hearing on the subject, Councilwoman Rosanna Hamm felt that a public hearing would represent a fresh start.

“We need to listen to people,” Hamm said.

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