Last week the local paper covered the business, Zikibiki's, again as controvery finally stirred up.
Even with ventilator units, opponents of the hookah and oxygen bar are will worried about secondhand smoke, Prevention Connections Associate Director Heather Ohlson said.
Pity opponents weren't worried enough to show up at the public hearing, a vehicle designed to ensure that public concerns are addressed. In fact, member Thomas Rocco was very concerned about ventilation, and the Board required installation of a system which will be much more expensive than what the prevailing laws require.
Opponents are also suddenly concerned about the proximity to the Middle School - it's just a block away, and they feel this could encourage tobacco use among these impressionable youngsters in a way that the deli which sells cigarettes between the two locations doesn't.
On Zikibiki's Facebook group page, there are only a handful of comments. However, one comes from a teenage boy who asks "will this be the open to people of all ages, I would be very interested, but I'm 14."
For [Shari] Kanner that post alone proves that their point has merit. "There really is a concern about a 14-year-old smoking from a hookah."
Kanner may have been mollified if she spoken to the boy, like I did. Aaron Rudder is a New Paltz High School sophomore who speaks and writes eloquently, and plays several musical instruments. I asked Aaron about his comments on Zikibiki's page and his interest in the business. Turns out that Aaron has zero interest in using tobacco, ladies; he was asking because he's curious about the purified oxygen. Aaron points out on Zikibiki's group page that "according to New York State law, the only laws relating to tobacco, are that you cannot smoke indoors, and you must be 18 to purchase it" as opposed to an age restriction for admission, like bars use. His arguments are entirely in support of his interest in trying out the oxygen, something which took me about five minutes of work to determine.
When one puts together all the available information on this business, it's interesting to note that it appears the cart is driving the horse. A special use permit was approved, but the building itself still has a "for lease" sign in the window. This might be because there's no money yet to fund the project, as evidenced on the Facebook page, which is essentially a request for venture capital. A business selling tobacco near a school, but which doesn't have any money to mount a meaningful legal defense, is pretty low-hanging fruit to grab. Maybe if Susan Zimet had paid a fraction of that much of her attention to Woodland Pond, we'd have a senior community that wasn't a gigantic eyesore from ridge that draws most of New Paltz' tourist traffic.
People are asking why this went through so easily. Simply put, they followed the rules and didn't have a bunch of people lined up against them like the Main Course did. Public participation is vital to ensuring that a planning board makes the right decision for the community and within existing laws, and if no one raises a question it's much harder for the Planning Board to answer it.