A special meeting with one item on the agenda June 23 was expected to take just a few minutes for the item to be approved and then the meeting to adjourn, but at the beginning of the meeting Trustee Matt Oddy asked to make a statement under “Public Comment” and asked for the three-minute rule to be waived.
A medical marijuana project in an industrial zoning was discussed for almost 20 minutes without giving the name of the developer.
Township attorney Rob Young sat at the board table at what the audience expected to be a five-minute special meeting.
Under Michigan Compiled Laws, Act 359 of 1947, Section 42.7(4) Business shall not be transacted at a special meeting of the township board unless the business has been stated in the notice of the meeting. However, if all the members of the board are present at a special meeting, then business that might lawfully come before a regular meeting of the board may be transacted at the special meeting.
Trustee Don LaPorte and Clerk Esther Hurst were absent from the meeting.
Trustee Oddy was allowed to continue speaking and then Young and Trustees Peggy Morgan and Tim Rush also joined in the discussion.
Oddy began his remarks by saying he recommended the developers come to the township for the work/study session on June 28 to bring the information forward on a proposed industrial complex.
He said this is the second meeting since a year ago there was a meeting on the subject of a medical marijuana facility. He said Rush and Supervisor Tim Bowman couldn’t make this meeting. Oddy said the township has not entered into the MMFLA (Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act) and this project is contingent upon getting the medical marijuana facility. He said the township has turned this down twice.
He said the developer was looking for support from Oddy and Rush on the project and Oddy said that they couldn’t give support without board action.
“There was nothing to talk about because we hadn’t opted in,” Oddy said. He said they talked about several large businesses that would be welcome in Sumpter. Oddy said he asked why they couldn’t proceed on those without the medical marijuana facility and he was told the project doesn’t work without it.
Oddy said this wasn’t on the board’s regular meeting agenda, but they should bring information to get on the agenda and they haven’t.
“I compliment you for getting this information out,” Young said to Oddy, noting the rumor mill works strongly in Sumpter Township.
“I didn’t go to the first meeting a year ago,” Young continued. “This was an effort to put a pretty face on MMFLA or medical marijuana to try to entice us” with bringing in the project, he said.
He said they spoke of $250,000 from just the assessments for police and fire.
“I was disappointed … a waste of time,” Young said.
He said they told the developers the township had voted not to opt in to MMFLA and not participate in medical marijuana growing. Young said the township board members could be asked to reconsider their votes, but they didn’t seem interested in bringing it to the board.
“I compliment you for bringing this up,” Young repeated to Oddy.
Oddy said they came with their attorney, contractor, and person who writes ordinances for the township and it was a premature meeting. He said it can’t move forward without medical marijuana.
Trustee Morgan pointed out this special meeting was for one agenda item only and discussion of this topic is inappropriate.
“The people of this township want to opt in and it won’t be the first or last business to ask us to opt in,” Morgan said, adding other cities are getting into medical marijuana and she doesn’t want to have Sumpter sitting there saying, “Oh Van Buren Township did it, Belleville did it, Romulus did it.
“I’d hate to miss out when all of these places are getting in,” she said. “If they were here a year ago and they’re back, they must be pretty serious.” She said a vote for medical marijuana in the state was 68%.
“We invited them to come on June 28 and they didn’t bring the information” to be on the agenda, Oddy repeated. He told Morgan that the 68% who voted for it didn’t vote to have it in their back yards.
“I invited them to come down on the 28th to the work/study,” Rush said. He accused them of trying “to hoodwink us and lie to the residents.”
“What harm is there to reach out to them?” Morgan said, asking for the man’s number so she could call him. “Maybe they felt the door was slammed shut in their face.”
Young said something of interest should be fully explored and debated to determine what is the best thing for the community.
“This is not the right way to try to schedule a meeting,” Young said of the developers, accusing them of using a carrot to get what they want.
“I haven’t shared all my discussions with them and I won’t because I can’t have candid conversations,” Young said. “Any item can be brought to this board. You do it here, not in the back room.”
Morgan suggested the township send out a survey to ask residents if they want it. Maybe they would say no, she said.
“We do it here, right here,” Young repeated, slapping the board table.
Rush said everyone needs to bear in mind that after an ordinance is written it takes a year or two to get going.
“I meant this to be a statement,” Oddy said. “I specifically sent an email that I didn’t want to talk about opting in … and they brought an attorney, builder, ordinance writer…”
As Oddy’s discussion in the Public Comment period ended, resident Eric Partridge asked to address the board on the fence project at the fairgrounds and the supervisor denied him approval to speak. Deputy Clerk Anthony Burdick said he would discuss the bid specifications with him after the meeting.
The only business item on the agenda was then quickly approved and the meeting adjourned. The board voted unanimously to exercise the $227,097.94 certificate of deposit at the Public Service Credit Union that matures June 26 and put the money in a separate account until the treasurer and financial director decide what to recommend for its use and bring it back to the board for approval.
Financial Director Scott Holtz had reported at the last meeting that a previous director had specified the funds for the township’s unfunded pension liability, but some board members wanted to see it used for other things. They all agreed they should not let the CD be automatically reinvested for another four years.
After the meeting, Morgan talked with several people in the audience and then announced angrily, “I am pissed and you can print that.”
She said she asked Oddy and Young for the developer’s name and number to call him to bring information to the board and then she found out the developer is resident Nelson Po.
Morgan followed attorney Young and Supervisor Bowman out of the meeting room door as they left the building.
“That’s why you wouldn’t give him the time of day,” she said, adding that was discrimination because he grew up in the Philippines. “I just found out and I’m irate. You’re only supposed to speak about what’s on the agenda at a special meeting.”
Bowman told Morgan as he walked by her: “Run your mouth. It’s doing you no good.”
Morgan also walked out in the parking lot to stop Rush’s pickup from driving off and he spoke briefly to her and left.
“We already knew it was Mr. Po and Mr. Day,” said Sheena Barnes in the parking lot, referring to attorney John Day.
Also, Partridge, who is interested in bidding for the township’s replacement of fencing, said he was confused about the specifications for the fences in the bidding documents. He said Mrs. Hoffman’s fence that had been torn down by the township was originally industrial-grade and they are planning to replace it with a residential-grade fence, which he thought wasn’t right. Also, he said, the township is specifying residential-grade fencing for the fairgrounds.