By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Oxford Village Council will hold a special workshop meeting Sept. 29 to discuss the latest marijuana ordinance draft and to fill a council seat vacated by Village President Joe Frost. Depending on what the executive order is at the time, the meeting will either be virtual or in-person at the regular meeting time of 7 p.m.
All summer, the Village Planning Commission has been working on the latest draft of the Adult Use Marijuana ordinance. It recently sent its revisions to council for consideration.
The village has been working on legislation to allow (and regulate) recreational marijuana businesses since late 2018 when Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. Since then, the ordinance has gone back and forth between the village council and planning commission.
The commission has worked closely with village attorney Bob Davis who has been tracking marijuana litigation news across the state. “Given the importance and complexity of this issue,” Davis recommended the council schedule a separate meeting on the topic. “I would like to present issues at that meeting and I believe it would be wise to have our planner (Mario Ortega of McKenna Associates) attend as well.”
“There’s a lot that goes into allowing adult-use marijuana in a community,” said Councilwoman Kelsey Cooke, who has some expertise on the topic.
Earlier this month, as chair of the Oakland County Bar Association’s Municipal Law Committee, she moderated a seminar titled “The Blunt Truth: Your Local Pot Shop and Hashing Out the Legal Details.” And, prior to her appointment to village council in February, Cooke served on the planning commission and worked on the ordinance from that end.
Cooke said there are not many communities that have allowed recreational marijuana businesses so far, but they are learning from those few that have. “I think we need to take the time to not make any of the same mistakes that have been made that are out there that can result in litigation. It seems like every day we’re learning more and more about the risks to the village for doing this. . .”
While the village has been working on the ordinance, a temporary ban on marijuana businesses has been in place with a “sunset provision.” In May, council extended the prohibition’s expiration to Dec. 31, 2020.
“It’s going to take, in my mind, a lot more time than we have until the end of the year,” Cooke said. “I definitely would recommend moving that back again.”
Cooke wants to make sure they take their time and do it right. “I would suggest hearing from our local police, fire, DDA and most importantly from all the residents. We need to have a workshop and then a couple town halls. My point is there’s a lot to know and it’s constantly changing.”
Davis complimented the planning commission’s work. “I think you’re going to learn in the long run the simplicity of how the planning commission went about this will be the brilliance of the ordinance if you’re able to get it over the finish line. The simplicity will become the brilliance.”
The ordinance has been controversial, with members of the public often making comments at council meetings, even when the topic is not on the agenda.
Frost’s resignation and vacancy
At the same workshop, the council should fill the seat vacated by Village President Joe Frost, whose resignation was effective at the end of the Sept. 8 meeting.
The village charter states council vacancies should be filled within 30 days. Frost’s council seat expires in 2022, while his term as president expires in November. The village president is elected by the council.
Frost resigned because he is moving to Bay City. “I really wanted to get through to the election in November, but with one board meeting in October, I couldn’t really justify having one foot in one community and one foot in the other,” he said.
In April, Frost took a new job with the State of Michigan as a “Main Street Specialist.” The job is fully remote even in normal times, which means he could live anywhere in the state. He chose to move to Bay City because that is where his wife’s family is from.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity to work with each and every one of you and serve our residents and our business owners in various capacities,” Frost said.
The village council and administration had plenty of kind parting words.
“Your leadership will be incredibly missed,” said village attorney Bob Davis.
“Thank you and good luck to you. I think it’s a great move for you and your family. It fits you in many ways. . .” said Village Manager Joe Madore.
“I’m very sad to see you go,” said Councilwoman Allison Kemp. “Thank you so much for your service you’ve given Oxford the last five years on council and the DDA. . . I wish you and your family all the best.”
“Thank you for being an exceptional leader for the village, I’ve really enjoyed the time we’ve gotten to work together,” said Councilwoman Kelsey Cooke. “You’ll be greatly missed. And I can’t wait to see what you do with your home, so keep us updated and I’m sure you’ll go far in the future.
“Thank you everyone for the opportunity to serve,” Frost said.