Township of Meridian. planning for recreational marijuana businesses

MERIDIAN TWP. – Township Supervisor Patricia Jackson said she believes the township could see recreational marijuana businesses open before the end of next year.

It’s early in the government process, but the gears are turning.

The township council asked staff to begin work on what an ordinance authorizing the settlements might look like and asked the township planning commission to work on zoning issues, which were discussed at its meeting in Monday.

Jackson said she thinks, or at least hopes, the planning commission will come up with recommendations on where and where the stores could go by the end of this year. Then, in early 2023, she expects the board to start working on the permitting aspect of the ordinance and organizing the selection process.

That she expects it to be finished well before the end of 2023, hopefully by summer.

“And if we’re lucky, even sooner than that,” she said.

What is the facility authorization process?

The Township of Meridian currently prohibits all recreational marijuana establishments, per an ordinance passed in 2019. Medical marijuana is permitted, in some areas, with licenses and permits. There are currently no open medical marijuana facilities or active licenses.

In August, a ballot proposal banning recreational marijuana establishments in the township was put before voters. After a recount in September, the proposal was narrowly defeated by six votes, 6,147 yes to ban marijuana businesses and 6,153 no to reject the proposal.

At a board meeting in early October, the council voted to refer the zoning portion of potential recreational marijuana licensing and approval to the planning commission for comment, public hearing and recommendation, according to a memo from Meridian Township’s Director of Community Planning and Development, Tim Schmitt, to the Commission.

The township is considering using the medical marijuana zoning structure to create something similar for recreational marijuana, subject to three specific things, according to a memo from Schmitt to township council:

  • The number of recreational licenses the township would consider issuing. Currently, through the Licensing Ordinance, it allows up to three producer, processor, safety compliance and secure transport permits, as well as six supply center permits.
  • Where the township would consider issuing the licenses. There are currently seven zones where medical marijuana facilities, including commercial, industrial properties and research parks, are permitted.
  • The types of permits the township would consider.

At the planning commission on Monday, commissioners appeared to favor using current medical marijuana sites for recreational marijuana facilities.

“If I hear everyone correctly, we’re not asking you to reinvent the wheel, to start over with an entirely separate order on this,” Vice Chairman Peter Trezise said at the meeting. “If we can avoid that, there may be a need for differentiation here, but starting over with another 10-page order to govern something that’s probably going to be in the same place doesn’t, for me, do much. of meaning. »

Jackson told the State Journal that she would like the same sites used for facilities that offer both a medical and adult marijuana supply.

Schmitt said he would collect input from the planning commissioners and bring them a draft order soon.

A licensing process, separate from the zoning ordinance, will be developed, which will be significantly more complicated, he said.

The medical marijuana overlay map for the township of Meridian, showing where establishments are permitted in the township.

The current “ping pong ball” lottery system for medical marijuana for who can apply for approval does not apply to the recreational marijuana industry. A new approach will need to be developed for recreational marijuana licensing, he said.

Many communities have opted for a points-based application system, in which applicants receive points for meeting specific thresholds such as local or minority ownership and industry history. Staff will work with the township attorney to develop licensing order options and a draft will be presented to council for consideration and potential adoption, Schmitt said.

He said a recommendation from the planning commission could be presented to the township council in early 2023. At the same time, staff and the township attorney’s office can work out options for the licensing ordinance and possibly draft this to be brought to the cantonal council at the same time.

“But I can’t guarantee anything,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “There are a lot of moving parts.”

Brothers hope to open a cannabis business

In late September, at least 10 people wrote to the township council, encouraging officials to adopt a plan to allow adult-use cannabis businesses within township borders.

One of them was Louis Santucci, a Traverse City resident who owns property in Meridian Township with his brother, resident Marc Santucci, who has been a proponent of allowing recreational marijuana in the township.

The two men and their cousin own plots off Hagadorn Road, on the border with East Lansing and on the road to the former Red Haven restaurant, which is in an approved medical marijuana district. Louis Santucci said they plan to build and open an outlet there if the township approves.

“It goes without saying that this long-vacant property will provide a steady stream of revenue to the township, not only through the annual increase in property taxes, but also through sales taxes,” Louis Santucci wrote to the township council.

A home at 4360 Hagadorn Road in Meridian Township on October 13, 2022. If township officials go ahead with allowing recreational marijuana establishments, two brothers and their cousin plan to demolish the buildings on this property and an adjacent property to move forward with a development including a marijuana business.

There are currently two old houses on the property, one which Marc Santucci used as an office. He said that if the township moves forward with licensing recreational marijuana businesses, it will proceed with the demolition of buildings and development of the property to include the cannabis business.

“So that’s going to be an important consideration as to what we do,” Marc Santucci said.

He said he hoped the township would keep the same areas for recreational as well as medical marijuana and depending on how things go, he could see construction between April and October or November and then open the business of by the end of 2023.

“If something is delayed, then only Mother Nature is going to make it continue into 2024,” he said.

A split in the town

Meridian Township staff reviewed the August election results to determine if there were any trends that could guide discussions about recreational marijuana.

The highest concentration of votes to ban was in the southeast part of the township, in Okemos, while the high concentrations not to ban were split between the northwest and northeast parts of the township in Haslett, said Schmitt.

He said at Monday’s meeting that there were a few constituencies in Okemos that voted against in double digits and a couple in Haslett that voted against in triple digits.

“It’s really, across the township, a mix,” he said. “There are a few concentrated areas, make no mistake, but it’s not like a landslide in any area.”

Jackson said how confusing the proposal was for some residents, with a yes vote banning establishments and a no vote allowing them, she thinks having the same area for recreational marijuana as for medicine would be a great compromise.

“I think everyone recognizes that among voters, among people who chose to vote in August 2022, the township is pretty evenly divided,” she said. “And personally, I hope that we can reach a compromise, a reasonable compromise, acceptable to all the inhabitants of the township to preserve their quality of life and their rights as citizens in the State of Michigan which essentially legalized the sale of marijuana.

Contact Bryce Airgood at 517-267-0448 or bairgood@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @bairgood123.

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