By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Van Buren Township Planning Commission needs more information on Medical Marijuana laws in Michigan before recommending removal of words from the zoning ordinance.
The words township attorney Patrick McCauley recommended removing are what was called the Livonia Model when McCauley recommended it be added to the zoning ordinance in 2011.
The planning commission then recommended the Livonia Model to the township board and the board passed it.
The Livonia Model wording added to the ordinance was: “Uses for enterprises that are contrary to Federal, State or local laws or ordinances are prohibited.”
Then the Michigan Supreme Court, in the case of Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming, recently ruled that municipalities may not ban the use of medical marijuana within their boundaries using this language so McCauley recommended removing the language.
A public hearing was held May 28 on deleting the language in the ordinance and no members of the public spoke.
At its June 11 meeting, the board tabled this agenda item and directed planning consultant Sally Hodges of McKenna Associates to get more information on what other communities are doing and the latest medical marijuana laws.
“We’ll hear more and see where we go from here,” said Commission Chairwoman Carol Thompson.
When it was time to vote on removing the Livonia Model language from the ordinance, Commission Vice-Chairman Don Boynton had questions.
“I’m not entirely confident about this,” he said. “It is going to leave us somewhat open … Marijuana is an illegal substance, period.” He said in the 22 or 23 states where medical marijuana is legalized, the federal government is not making it a priority.
“It’s a recommendation of the township attorney,” Hodges insisted.
Commissioner Bob McKenna said he thought the township had a marijuana law, but this wording is in the introduction.
“We felt this was a simple approach,” Hodges said. “The Supreme Court said you can’t rely on this.”
Chairwoman Thompson asked what other communities are doing.
“In one community I worked on an ordinance which allows this and not that,” Hodges said. “You ought to be able to place it so it is not a detriment to the community. We could look at what regulations make sense.”
“We have an ordinance we can’t enforce,” said McKenna. “So what? Why not leave it on the books as it is? Can’t enforce it, but it’s there.” He said people who look at the ordinances could think they couldn’t have it in VBT.
“Are we vulnerable?” Thompson asked.
“I’m not an attorney,” Hodges said. “We could ask the township attorney.”
“If it was left in there, they would have to prove it was for medical marijuana,” Boynton said. “I agree with Mr. McKenna.”
Hodges said the phrase was adopted by so many communities at the time.
She said she would bring back more information at the next meeting on June 25.
Also, at the 27-minute meeting, the commission approved the final site plan for expansion of the Full House Self Storage business at 7934 Belleville Road.
Full House is expanding its site and adding 136 storage units to its existing mini-warehouse. The planners asked that the landscape plan be revised so the existing pattern of evergreen shrubs in a hedge is continued across the frontage instead of adding burning bushes as proposed.
By Rosemary K. Otzman