Elevate Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Mount Vernon Amid Permit Controversy

Elevate Cannabis Dispensary in Mount Vernon, NY, opened in December 2022 without necessary permits and approvals. The dispensary remains open despite the withdrawal of initial Planning Board approval and lack of required permits.

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Trim Correspondents
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Elevate Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Mount Vernon Amid Permit Controversy

Elevate Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Mount Vernon Amid Permit Controversy

Elevate Cannabis Dispensary in Mount Vernon, NY, opened its doors in December 2022 without obtaining the necessary building permit, certificate of occupancy, or Planning Board approval. The dispensary's opening was facilitated by Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and City Councilwoman Caitlin Gleason, who helped the business skip several required steps in the approval process.

Why this matters: This incident raises concerns about the integrity of the permitting process and the potential for favoritism in Mount Vernon's government. It also highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in the city's approval process to ensure that businesses operate fairly and safely.

Just hours before the Planning Board held a hearing on Elevate's application on April 4, the dispensary paid $10,000 in "legalization fees" to City Hall. The payment, made verbally, appears to be a fee assessed to make amends for the dispensary's failure to obtain proper permits and approvals. Richard Thomas, Elevate spokesman and former Mount Vernon mayor, stated, "In this case, it was the city's priority to make sure the industry got started." The dispensary's owners transformed a former autobody shop into a state-of-the-art retail outlet without obtaining the necessary approvals.

Thomas further explained, "There was a whole conversation across all of the offices. We were told everything was moving forward. The Council was involved. The mayor's office fully knew and was fully aware." Despite the lack of approvals, the mayor and the executive director of the New York Office of Cannabis Management attended the grand opening on February 20.

Elevate's application was aided by Councilwoman Gleason, who helped shepherd the project through the Building Department with the support of Mayor Patterson-Howard and Robin Mack, director of the Mount Vernon Industrial Development Agency. The dispensary did not rely on intermediaries called expeditors, who can help builders win cooperation at the city's Building Department.

The Planning Board initially approved the dispensary's proposal on April 4. However, the approval was later withdrawn by Shahin Badaly, the professional engineer who filed the application for Elevate. Badaly stated, "This application should not be considered by the Planning Board without having obtained approvals by the Zoning Board of Appeals for several area variances." Former city Planning Commissioner Vince Ferrandino called the withdrawal "a vindication for all that has been previously been said by myself and others, including the media, about the deficiencies of this application and its blatant disregard for obtaining all legal approvals from the planning board, zoning board, and building department prior to opening for business without proper permits months ago."

Despite the lack of approvals and the withdrawal of the Planning Board's initial approval, Elevate Cannabis Dispensary remains open for business. The owners stand by their original submission, and the dispensary continues to operate without the necessary permits and approvals from the city of Mount Vernon.

Key Takeaways

  • Elevate Cannabis Dispensary opened in Mount Vernon, NY without necessary permits and approvals.
  • Mayor and City Councilwoman helped the business skip required steps in the approval process.
  • Dispensary paid $10,000 in "legalization fees" to City Hall after operating without permits.
  • Planning Board initially approved the dispensary, but later withdrew approval due to lack of variances.
  • Dispensary remains open despite lack of necessary permits and approvals from the city.