Rensselaerville board sets pot opt-in public hearing, tables Airbnb discussions

— photo from Airbnb
This lakeside property in Rensselaerville can be rented through the site Airbnb, along with several others in the town.

RENSSELAERVILLE — The Rensselaerville Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for its marijuana-dispensary opt-in law for Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

As The Enterprise previously reported, Supervisor John Dolce is interested in opting back into the state law that allows dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities to operate legally in order to appease people who are upset that the town opted out in the first place. 

But the state’s own regulations mean that it’s more of a no-inhale approach, as it were. 

As Dolce explained in July, only people who are “justice-involved” (meaning they or a family member have been convicted of a marijuana-related offense) are allowed to open a dispensary as the state attempts to make up for what are now widely seen as unfair incarcerations during the war on drugs. 

Applicants must also have at least two years of business experience, which further restricts the number of eligible applicants. 

On top of that, the state gives out only a certain number of licenses per region. In the Capital Region, which has more than 1.1 million residents, the state will hand out just seven licenses, according to the Office of Cannabis Management. 

“That’s why I’d rather just opt in, and be done,” Dolce said at the time. “If anyone wants to fight to get the dispensary, God bless them. The town’s not going to hold them back.”

The opt-in, however, would be permanent. 

Both Knox and Berne decided against opting out of the state law when it was first enacted, to little effect. The law does not affect the legality of growing facilities, which Dolce said are already in the town. 


Short-term rentals

At the same meeting, on Sept. 14, the town board dropped all further discussion of regulating short-term rentals, such as those made through Airbnb, due to the lack of urgency and the potential for any law to increase the town’s liability should problems arise. 

The topic has been discussed here and there over several months, but Dolce said this week that there have been no real issues brought to the town, and that his interest in drafting a law was only to protect the town should something come up. 

A big concern, he said, is figuring out, for locals, who’s responsible if activity at a rented property becomes disruptive. 

“We want to have direct contact with whoever has rented [out] that Airbnb,” Dolce said of the property owners. “They’re renting it, they need to get the phone call at 2 o’clock in the morning, not me. They’re the only ones who can do something about it because they know who they rented it to.”

When Councilman Peter Sommerville said he “still fail[s] to see the need for this law,” Dolce acknowledged that there are “a lot of Airbnbs in our town, and we haven’t had any complaints yet.”

An Enterprise search of the Airbnb site for listings available this fall showed six properties in the Rensselaerville hamlet, and a handful of others elsewhere in the town. 

When the question of enforcement came up, Dolce said, “We don’t want to enforce it. We want it off of us. We just want to protect us from being claimed responsible because we allow it. That’s all I’m trying to protect us from. Maybe it’s not necessary.”

He implored other board members not to just “go along with it” as discussion about the need and trouble with enforcement continued, since he wasn’t sure if it was needed. 

Town attorney William Ryan pointed out that an adopted regulation could actually increase the town’s liability if it weren’t shaped correctly. 

Ryan said, if the law were adopted, “and there’s language in there about the obligation to inspect by the building inspector, and he or she does not inspect it or does it poorly, then it’s going to be on you.”

“I think the idea of tabling is a good one,” Ryan said. 

The board resolved to take a wait-and-see approach, so that it can better understand what problems, if any, need to be addressed. 

“I think that’s a smarter way to approach it,” Sommerville said. “Let’s just see where it goes.”


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