August 14, 2018

Despite contention Au Gres Twp. zoning board approves grow facility application

Posted

Au GRES TWP. — The township zoning board approved a Class C medical marijuana grow facility application May 21, despite a strong turnout by residents for and against it.

One of the largest contentions by those speaking out against the operation was the alleged lack of transparency, not by the zoning board, but by the township board that the zoning board answers to.

During the first public comment period, several residents asked where they could get answers if they couldn’t get any from the zoning board.

“When do we get answers?” one resident asked.

Zoning board member Barbara Lubuda informed residents that the township board meets the second Tuesday of every month.

However, residents alleged the township board doesn’t answer questions.

The property in contention, which is located on Manor Road only a few miles from the township hall, is zoned agriculture.

Also during public comment, longtime resident Linden Mills said he never had any doubts about the township until recently.

“The board is going to have some real conscience and ethical questions and regrets if when we get this program going, if these beautiful little kids over here are able to acquire... steal...however marijuana,” Mills said.

Mills went on to say that he hoped the controls in place for medical marijuana are adequate to keep the drug out of the hands of children.

There also were accusations thrown around during the meeting regarding township officials who may be profiting from the flourishing industry.

“I hope that there is nobody on our township government who is benefiting financially either directly or indirectly from all of this movement that we have entered into,” Mills said. “That would be a serious concern of mine.”

Lubuda pointed out to residents that many of their comments, questions and concerns should have been delivered to the township board but thanked them for their comments.

Township resident Tom Reif reiterated Lubuda’s point and added that residents should be able to obtain many of their answers from the township zoning ordinance.

Resident Bob Britt said his concerns are regarding the laws at the state level and he feels the township is moving too fast with the industry.

“Medical marijuana is legal in Michigan,” he said. “There are the state statutes. I think the state of Michigan has really messed this thing up. The state is changing those statutes as they go. This is brand-new for the state but the cart has been before the horse. Everything the township has done has been legal but I think we are moving way too fast and I blame the state for it. I think the state has put the township in an awkward position, and all its residents. So please don’t rush.”

After approving the meeting’s agenda, township Clerk Mike Oxley read a letter from resident Melonie Hayes, who lives near the grow facility location.

Hayes said she had issues with the times that the zoning board holds meetings when said if meetings were in the evening, the board likely would have heard from residents on the topic sooner.

Hayes said in her letter the operation would be in violation of the special use permit ordinance in the township.

“Due to the high probability of such special use permit being in violation of these requirements and conditions that have been set forth, I am opposed to the approval of such a permit,” she said.

Hayes also alleged 60 percent of the zoning board was profiting or set to profit from the industry.

“For all of the members who have recommended approval, with a majority who are concerned with their pocketbooks, what is going to happen when the township has overstepped their legal boundaries?” Hayes asked. “What role will all you be taking when that happens? I can guarantee the township will suffer the consequences while you individuals are reaping the benefits.”

Hayes’ letter goes on to address the township board, and she expressed a deep disgust with all the members except one who had stood against the movement.

She also pointed out that the area thrives on tourism and questioned what will happen after the industry is developed in the area.

Hayes’ letter received a round of applause by the nearly two dozen in attendance.

Several also spoke in support of medical marijuana facilities, stating that this has been an issue discussed in the township for more than a year, yet residents waited until now before fighting the issue.

Reif said the law says the facilities are allowed if a township opts in, which the township has.

“If the applicant, whomever they may be, meets the standards of the ordinance and the requirements therein and this body denies their application, they could be subject to litigation,” he said. “You can’t deny it just because you don’t like it. It is the law.”

Another topic of discussion was the lack of building permits that have been applied for by some of the developers, which was confirmed by Allan Thompson, a private building inspector hired by the township.

“That’s 100 percent correct,” he said. “I have not received one application for any marijuana situation. It requires a zoning permit, a building permit, a stamped set of blueprints, a licensed contractor and a certificate to occupy. That’s state law, cut and dried. Whether they do it or not, grow it or not, that’s not my bailiwick. I don’t care what they grow or where they grow it as long as they do it legally.”

Following public comment, the zoning board reviewed the application and voted to approve it, with all members in attendance approving the application. The zoning board should have five members. However, Wes Crombey was not in attendance at the meeting and one seat is currently vacant.

The Independent will continue to follow the application as it moves on to the township board to be considered for approval.

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Connie

There were people who were against this marijuana business coming into the township. I see now other people in the township are finally waking up. The zoning board can accept or deny these sort of things. They should have denied it from the start--but for some reason they approved it. Then the township board should have denied it but, of course, they didn't either.

Friday, May 25 | Report this
Connie

Mr. Mills we have always had beautiful children in this township. Why were you not concerned about them when all this started??

Saturday, May 26 | Report this
Melonie

I think Mr. Mills was expressing his concern about what this would allow for children. He might not have been aware this was going on until recently. I can admit I did not know this was happening until it was already adopted by the twp board.

Wednesday, May 30 | Report this
Connie2

Last year community members within a range of the medical marijuana facilities received a notice the township would be voting on approval for medical marijuana growing, processing, and distributing. We were invited to the meeting to give our opinions. By this time, the state had already given the township the blessing to move forward. Silly me, I was under the assumption that giving our opinion would be the first step. I thought we had a say in this....but we were literally told this has already been approved and nothing we say can change it. We were just there to give our thoughts. We were told since our area was agriculture and residential, growing and processing could take place in our community. I am not opposed to medical marijuana, but I am opposed to bringing it to the residential area especially without a vote from the tax paying community members. The state, the county and the police department will receive (researched) revenue from this via taxes while the residents will see the beauty of our land destroyed. It was kind of upsetting to note when each growing, processing, and distributing vote was being approved, certain members could not vote and had to excuse themselves because of a conflict of interest. I moved up here from the city to enjoy the rest of my life along with my children and grandchildren in this community. We built a beautiful home from the ground up to see the beauty around us. I did not move to the country to see the city again. The beautiful trees are now torn down. I now look in one direction to see the beauty. It is a shame that we cannot have a vote from community members. By having meetings the 1st Tuesday of the month in the morning, many people are not able to attend. I feel in my heart this was a very sneaky way to get something passed right under our nose. Where were the letters prior to this stating "we are having a meeting to discuss....your life....your future....your beautiful country land.

Wednesday, May 30 | Report this
Connie

Thank you Connie 2--those are my thought exactly. The whole township should have had a say in this.

Friday, June 1 | Report this

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