By Rosemary K. Otzman
After a brief discussion at its June 25 meeting, the Van Buren Township Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend deleting the “Livonia Language” from the zoning ordinances.
Commissioner Bryon Kelley was absent and excused.
The recommendation now goes to the township board for final action.
The “Livonia Language” is the sentence: “Uses for enterprises that are contrary to Federal, State or local laws or ordinances are prohibited.”
At a previous meeting, commissioners questioned the rationale for removal of the sentence. Planning consultant Sally Hodges of McKenna Associates, said she would talk to attorney Patrick McCauley and bring back more information.
On June 25 she reported that the Michigan Supreme Court held the City of Wyoming’s zoning ordinance was preempted by state law, including the sentence in the “Livonia Language.”
She said the more specific law trumps the more general law, in this case the Michigan Medical Marijuana law.
Hodges said attorney McCauley said the township should remove the language. She said he is concerned in the event of a law suit the township could be found at fault and there could be considerable cost to the township.
“It is wise in this case to eliminate it,” Hodges said.
Commission vice chairman Donald Boynton, who at the last meeting questioned elimination of the sentence, said since that meeting he looked at the documents. He said all the points Hodges raised are definitely valid.
He spoke of the U.S. Controlled Substance Act vs. Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
“This does not preclude the federal government from enforcing the Controlled Substance Act,” Boynton said. “If federal officials decide to take action, it can do so.”
He said a couple of communities used the Livonia Language and VBT felt the language would benefit it.
He suggested the township not take out the sentence, but add at the end, “… unless otherwise prohibited.”
Hodges said she was confused.
“Is prohibited unless not prohibited? I don’t get it,” she said.
Boynton suggested the wording might be a deterrent.
“It’s still illegal on your federal law,” Hodges said. “We don’t need this statement.”
“That portion was redundant,” said Commissioner Robert McKenna.
“When it was being added, we said it restates what the situation is anyway,” Hodges said. “We decided to err on the side of safety.”
Boynton said he got all the documents and it was “so convoluted” and there was a “sword hanging by a hair.”
He said, “If a Congressman steps up and says one things, all of these [state] laws are done.”
“My question is, if we remove this do we go back and look at the zoning?” asked chairwoman Carol Thompson.
“That would be my recommendation,” said Hodges, noting when the sentence was added the status of the Medical Marijuana law was up in the air and it was easiest just to add the sentence.
She said she could come up with some conditions for the zoning ordinance.
Thompson asked if a committee would be required.
“Let me take a whirl at it,” Hodges replied. “We can have a couple of discussions and then, if you like, set up a committee.”
“A couple of communities have passed zoning ordinances,” Thompson said.
Also in the 20-minute meeting, the commission approved the final site plan for construction of a 165,000-square-foot expansion to the former Olympic Laser building on 27.9 acres at 6331 Schooner Drive.
Constellium, an aluminum fabricator for the automotive industry, said it relocated its argon tank and cooling towers to comply with township requests. It also has engineering approval, approval from Wayne County for ground water, the water main is in progress and approval coming from the MDEQ for discharge to Denton Drain.
Architect Tyler Walker showed the cement blocks painted blue and grey and said a schedule has been created for inspecting and maintaining the paint, as the commission had requested earlier.
Mike Durand of Constellium told the commission at a previous meeting that the company’s preliminary account is the Ford Motor Co. and they just got a big contract for the 2015 aluminum trucks and need to start building them in November.
By Rosemary K. Otzman