It looks like it’s going to be a busy year in the Town of Shawangunk in 2022.
At least that’s the way it sounds based on the wish list of Supervisor John Valk for the next 12 months. Valk ticked off the town’s top priorities near the conclusion of the Jan. 6 reorganization meeting.
Valk admits one of the more controversial issues facing the Town of Shawangunk is how it deals with cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges.
The town voted to opt out of both options just before New York’s Dec. 31 deadline, but the Town Board made it clear that decision was basically to buy more time to see how things went with marijuana stores and lounges in neighboring towns.
During a large turnout at a public information meeting on marijuana shops and lounges four months ago, the sentiment voiced by 15 speakers was divided on the issue. At a subsequent public hearing in December before the board voted to opt out, all four speakers were in favor of allowing marijuana shops and lounges within the town borders.
Under state law, towns that opted out in 2021 can change course and allow the cannabis shops and/or lounges by simply opting back in. Valk said he has begun gathering zoning regulations regarding the location of cannabis stores and lounges from other states that allow them.
“There’s some guidelines you can put in where you want,” he said. “There’s issues about controlling smoke. If there’s a business next door to make sure there’s proper ventilation.”
Valk said Councilmen Brian Amthor and Robert Miller, who are on the town’s liaison committee to Police Chief Gerald Marlatt, should also follow up regarding recommendations made on police department policies adopted by the Police Reform and Reinvention Committee.
At the urging of the Police Reform and Reinvention Committee, the town adopted a “Right to Know” policy at a meeting last June that required Shawangunk police officers to identify themselves whenever they interacted with the public.
The special committee, which includes town residents and town officials, was formed after an executive order by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to explore the rules, regulations and operating procedures of police departments in New York. The goal of the committee was to create more transparency, eliminate any potential racial bias and improve the overall community relationship with the citizens the police department services.
Valk said the town also will be introducing three or four zoning changes at its next meeting.
“We have been talking about these for four years,” he said.
The town will also begin discussing how to allocate funding it has received from the American Rescue Plan.
“We have to come up with a plan,” Valk said. “They came up with new guidelines today, answering a lot of questions. I’ll forward that to the board members.”
Following the meeting, Valk said the Town of Shawangunk has received half of the $1.4 million it will receive. He expects the other half to arrive this summer. Valk said the town has until 2026 to spend the funds.
Valk also appointed Amthor and new board member Alex Danon to the newly created Economic Development and Revitalization Committee.
“During the last election, some of the people said they don’t like the empty storefronts,” Valk said. “Alex (Danon) sells real estate. He has contacts. We’re trying to market our town so to speak and Brian has ideas about that. I think Brian and Alex will work together well. We’re getting some activity. We just need more.”
In other news, Bob Mooney, the treasurer and board member of the Historical Society of Shawangunk & Gardiner, asked the Town Board to resume its funding for the organization.
“The town regularly gave $2,000 every year to help support the Society,” Mooney said, reading from a prepared statement. “Over the last few years, the town has given zero dollars. I have come before you several times asking for the support to be reinstated and am here again begging for your help.”
Mooney said the Historical Society tells the history of the town by maintaining and giving tours of the historic Andries DuBois House and the Knights of Pythias Lodge. He said permanent exhibits along with constantly rotating special displays offer residents and visitors a look into the rich past and growth of the Town of Shawangunk.
“This past year, just to keep our doors open, the utility bills, town taxes and insurance took $5,408.72 from our budget,” Mooney said.
Since the pandemic, Mooney said the historic buildings haven’t been open as much as usual and donations are down. There haven’t been many new members paying dues over the past two years either, he said.
“The last time I was told it would be considered in the next budget, however, it did not happen,” Mooney said. “The town should be interested in tourism and supporting things that give visitors a reason to stop as they pass through our area.”
Though sympathetic to Mooney’s request, Valk said the town budget for 2022 has already been adopted and no funds have been set aside for the organization.
“They do great things, but I don’t know if we can reach in (the budget) and find it for them,” Valk said. “I just think if they did a membership drive they could come up with some money, too. But we’ll see.”
Adrian DeWitt was appointed Deputy Supervisor.
The Wallkill Valley Times was designated as the town’s official newspaper.