By Rosemary K. Otzman
On Aug. 14, after discussing for two hours a proposed zoning ordinance amendment to regulate medical marijuana Provisionary Centers (also called dispensaries), the Sumpter Township Planning Commission set a 6:30 p.m. workshop session for Aug. 28 to discuss it further.
The township board will be invited to attend, as well.
The commission hopes to get most of its questions answered before the Sept. 11 public hearing on the new zoning ordinance. The township board is in the process of approving a second, general law ordinance on the dispensaries.
House Bill 4271 is pending at the state level that will require local communities to regulate the dispensaries.
Township attorney Rob Young and Sumpter Police Detective John Toth were present to explain the pair of ordinances being proposed and to answer questions.
Commissioner Matthew Oddy led the questions. He said he has had people come to him who said the growers are intrusive on the neighbors. He visited the location and could smell the marijuana.
He said the big building at the grower’s place didn’t seem to comply with the township ordinances and there was an issue with dogs. This has been going on for some time, he said.
“We’re not doing enough to protect the residents,” Oddy said.
He said the property values are sure to go down and the facility looks like Fort Knox.
“It’s a big mess,” Oddy said.
Det. Toth said he thinks he knows the place Oddy is describing on a dirt road that runs east and west and both the grower and the neighbor have businesses in a residential area.
He said the grower put in $5,000 worth of filtration since the complaint and he believes there’s been an air quality improvement. As to the buildings, all are approved by the township.
Toth said kennels have been approved with air conditioning and fencing and he’s been told it’s 100% legal. He said there is a separate address because DTE required a separate address for the electricity.
“We’re speaking in code here,” said attorney Young. “I think the complaints that originated were legitimate complaints on the odors.
“Also, the number of dogs. He was ticketed and we settled it right in court. A kennel license was issue and he assured us a ventilating system would be installed,” Young said.
“Nobody’s poo-pooing it,” Young said. “We’re not providing Provisionary Center and punishing our own residents.”
Oddy said there was a barn on the second lot.
Deputy Clerk Esther Hurst, who serves as secretary for the planning commission, said the property has two zonings, Residential-2 in front and Agriculture in the back.
Township Trustee Donnie Swinson confirmed that as of the previous Saturday there was an improvement in the air quality at the site.
Oddy continued with questions on that situation and on the ordinances.
“We started with something small … then provisionary centers,” Oddy said. “We already have an ordinance that says you can’t sell … We need to understand the full goal is to better protect the citizens and put the provisional centers in.”
Young said he will take the comments he heard that evening and go back and take a look at the proposed ordinance to see if changes need to be made.
Planner Laura Krebs said exclusionary zoning is illegal, so they cannot outlaw the centers.
At the end of the meeting, Oddy said, “I think I hogged the floor. I apologize. I think we needed to let him [Det. Toth] and Rob [Young] know there are some real issues going on in the community.”
During the meeting, Det. Toth told how police were advised of an illegal grow a few days earlier. It was a newly acquired home with no certificate of occupancy with a grow in the backyard that was not secure.
They had alarm systems and a guard, but they got information from somewhere else that was not correct in Sumpter, Toth said.
“The other day the plants were so big we had to call DPW to bring a chainsaw to cut them down,” Toth said.
“To have safety in the community, we have to move forward with the regulations,” Toth said.
A representative of the Cannabis Council, who was in the audience, left with the Sumpter resident who hired him without making any comments at the end of the meeting.
Also at its Aug. 14 meeting, the commission held a public hearing and then unanimously approved inserting provisions for the AG district in Section 5.3 of the zoning ordinance and an amendment to Article 4.20. These had been reviewed and approved by the planning commission previously, but inadvertently weren’t put into the zoning ordinance.
By Rosemary K. Otzman