When it comes to crafting an ordinance to potentially regulate marijuana businesses in Oxford Village, planning commissioners agree on one thing – they need more time to do things right.
Last week, they voted 6-0 to recommend to the village council that it vote to “opt out” of allowing recreational marijuana establishments while they develop ordinance language. Commission Chairman Gary Douglas was absent.
Opting out would have to take the form of council enacting an ordinance prohibiting all types of marijuana establishments.
The motion was prompted by news officials received during a May 20 public hearing.
At that meeting, Chris Johnson, general counsel for the Michigan Municipal League, informed everyone the state is now expecting to have a system in place to accept license applications for marijuana businesses “around Sept. 1.” If the village does “nothing,” meaning it does not put an ordinance in place either prohibiting or regulating these establishments, before the state begins accepting applications, Johnson said “every type of license” would “automatically” be allowed in the municipality.
At that point, having a moratorium on marijuana facilities – something the village has had in place since April 16 – would not hold up.
Originally, the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs had until Dec. 6, 2019 to put a regulatory framework in place and begin accepting license applications.
In light of this shorter time frame and the village’s meeting schedules, planning commissioners felt it prudent to ask council to enact a blanket ban on marijuana businesses while they conduct their research, discuss the issue and meet all the legal requirements associated with the process for creating a new ordinance.
Commissioner Leslie Pielack suggested this course of action in order to give her and her fellow commissioners time to “properly study and develop” an ordinance. She said “any time” a government body is “working under pressure” and is given a “tight timeline,” such as is the case here, “mistakes are going to be made” and it “can be very complicated to fix” them.
Pielack’s fellow commissioners agreed.
“If you don’t have time to do it, face the fact,” said Commissioner Jack Curtis.
The village was scheduled to address the planning commission’s recommendation at its June 11 regular meeting.
Council was expected to review prohibition ordinance language prepared by village attorney Bob Davis. It “prohibits all marihuana establishments within the boundaries of the Village of Oxford.” It also contains a “repeal and sunset provision” under which the ordinance, if adopted, would be placed on a village council agenda in March 2020 “for consideration of repeal and the adoption of zoning ordinances to govern” marijuana establishments in the village.
Currently, the village has a moratorium in place on all marijuana businesses, which means the municipality is not currently accepting or processing any applications for these establishments. The moratorium is set to expire in October.
When council enacted the moratorium in April, it also directed planning commissioners to develop an ordinance framework regulating the time, place and manner of operation for marijuana facilities.
Commissioner Maureen Helmuth, who also serves on the village council, said going forward, she wants work on the ordinance to be an “ongoing agenda item” at planning commission meetings.
“There should always be an hour dedicated to it at a meeting,” she said.
Following their approval of the prohibition recommendation, commissioners discussed the various types of recreational marijuana commercial establishments defined under state law and where they could potentially be allowed in the village.
The types of marijuana businesses are grower, safety compliance facility, processor, microbusiness, retailer and secure transporter. A microbusiness is an establishment that’s licensed to cultivate no more than 150 marijuana plants as well as process, package and sell marijuana to individuals age 21 and older.
Addressing the commission, village Planner Mario Ortega, of the Northville-based McKenna Associates, said “You, as residents, should think to yourselves . . . ‘where would I be OK with seeing these type(s) of uses located?’”
Helmuth expressed her support for allowing secure transporters, which are businesses licensed to obtain marijuana in order to transport it to establishments.
“I can’t imagine telling a trucking company what they can and can’t carry,” she said. “Trucking is already allowed in the village in the industrial district. I don’t think it makes a lick of difference what they’re carrying.”
Helmuth went on to say she would like to see marijuana businesses confined to areas that are both zoned industrial and located on major streets.
“We definitely don’t want it (within the) two main blocks downtown,” she said. “And I would prefer not to have it on M-24 at all. That’s just me.”
Curtis suggested allowing retail establishments in general business district (C-2) zoning.
However, it appears the only available C-2 zoning would be located on the north side of W. Burdick St., near the Polly Ann Trail, and on the east side of M-24, north of Church St. and the fire station.
The Oxford Marketplace shopping center is zoned C-2, but it appears marijuana establishments would be prohibited there because one of the current tenants is the Oxford Virtual Academy (OVA), which is operated by Oxford Community Schools.
According to state law, a marijuana business cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a pre-existing public or private school providing K-12 education, unless a municipality adopts an ordinance reducing this distance requirement.
“I would have to check if (OVA) qualifies, but I think it would because it’s run by the school district,” Ortega said.
Ortega told commissioners “it’s not unheard of” to allow retail establishments in industrially-zoned areas. He explained that generally, retail and industrial uses are not mixed because conflicts usually arise over issues such as noise and odor.
But, Ortega doesn’t feel those issues would drive away the customers of marijuana retailers.
“Chances are with this use, that’s not going to deter anyone . . . that wants to acquire marijuana,” he said. “They’ll go to where they need to go.”
Ortega said marijuana retailers could be treated like other adult uses, such as strip clubs, which have been found to be “detrimental” to surrounding retail and office uses.
Because of this, he said a “normal planning and zoning practice” is to place adult uses in industrial areas.
“We have to allow them somewhere” because the Supreme Court says they’re permitted by right under the Constitution, Oretga explained, but zoning laws give the village the power to decide where to put them.