Grattan Twp Board Recap: No Plans to Allow Marijuana Businesses

Residents of Grattan Township turned out last night to hear their board’s decision regarding whether to give the green light to marijuana businesses. Ultimately, the board decided to keep the status quo, which meant passing a recommendation to urge the Grattan Township Planning Commission to take no action on the matter.

Other items on the agenda included a public hearing for a special assessment for maintenance of Round Lake and discussion about future purchases. All members of the board were present except Trustee Paul Knoerl, whose absence was excused.

Follow-up to Public Hearing on Marijuana Businesses

At its last meeting, on September 20, the Grattan Township Board held a public hearing to gauge residents’ thoughts on allowing marijuana establishments to operate in the township. The township previously opted out of allowing these businesses.

“In 2018, we opted out,” said Clerk Michelle Alberts. “We are looking at it again because we were asked to.”

The request apparently came from Connor Baker, who has purchased the former Grattan Academy school building on Old Belding Road and who would like to use it for a marijuana business. Baker also purchased the former RollAway Fun Center in Lowell in the hopes of opening a marijuana retail establishment there.

At the September public hearing, 22 people spoke and among Grattan Township residents sharing an opinion, 6 were in support of Baker’s proposal and 8 were opposed.

The township also sent a survey to all residents asking for their opinion and collected responses via the mail and online. The results were as follows:

Mailed in responses – 331, with 314 being current Grattan Township residents

Should Grattan Township allow marijuana grow establishments?

  • Yes – 108
  • No – 222

Should Grattan Township allow marijuana retail establishments?

  • Yes – 100
  • No – 229

Online responses – 147, with 135 being current Grattan Township residents

Should Grattan Township allow marijuana grow establishments?

  • Yes – 66
  • No – 79

Should Grattan Township allow marijuana retail establishments?

  • Yes – 57
  • No – 86

Residents were specifically asked about grow and retail establishments since those were the uses proposed by Baker. Township Attorney Cliff Bloom also said the township could choose to allow only one use or the other.

Attorney Presentation and Resident Questions

During last night’s meeting, the board first heard a presentation from Bloom and then opened the floor for legal questions from the audience.

Bloom noted that the board cannot bind the Planning Commission, which means the board cannot stop them from working on a marijuana ordinance if they so choose. However, since that ordinance would need to be approved by the board, it wouldn’t make much sense for the commission to spend time on an ordinance they know the board won’t OK.

The attorney then went over a legal memorandum he drafted on the issue. Bloom said he did not mark the memorandum as privileged and confidential so it could be posted on the township website and shared with residents.

Bloom explained that for marijuana establishments to be allowed in the township, the board would have to amend its existing marijuana regulatory ordinance and add the following:

  • Zoning ordinance to stipulate where marijuana businesses could be located
  • Regulatory ordinance to outline licensing requirements

A resident asked about the cost of drafting these ordinances, and Bloom said he estimated the legal fees to be $7,500 – $15,000.

Bloom said the township may want to take into consideration that marijuana is currently illegal at the federal level but that may be expected to change in the future.

And while financial gains are often used to support the development of local marijuana businesses, Bloom thought any property tax revenues for a general law township would be minimal. On the other hand, there is the potential for revenue from state taxes. “You have to take the financial [arguments] with a grain of salt both ways,” he said.

Bloom also commented on how businesses could impact neighborhoods if not located entirely within a commercial district. “It would be hard to argue that it wouldn’t have a negative impact on residential values,” he said.

Following Bloom’s presentation, an informal Q&A was held with residents raising their hands and speaking from their seats. In response to questions, Bloom confirmed that a marijuana business license “runs with the land” so if a current owner sells, the business can remain open with the new owner. If the township later decides to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses, current establishments would be grandfathered in and allowed to continue operating.

There were also questions regarding the zoning of the current Grattan Academy building and who was financially backing its purchase. A woman sitting with Baker said both the Grattan Academy and RollAway building in Lowell were purchased under land contract agreements.

Other residents commented on protecting well water, odor from businesses and where grow facilities could be allowed. In answering questions, Bloom said, “There are probably few industries that are more regulated that this.”

Board Discussion and Vote

After hearing public comment, Alberts reviewed the survey results, and board members discussed the matter amongst themselves.

Trustee Dennis Heffron started off the board comments by thanking everyone for filling out surveys. “I’m here to represent the citizens of this township,” he said, adding that in his research, he found 80% of breaking and entering crimes are drug related. While not all cases are tied to marijuana, he was concerned by the number. He is opposed to allowing marijuana businesses in Grattan Township.

Alberts appreciated that so many people had attended the meeting last night and last month. “We have a lot of lonely board meetings where there is nobody here,” she said. She added she would not vote in favor of allowing marijuana businesses in the township. “I can’t in good conscious when the people we were elected to represent don’t want this.”

Supervisor Frank Force said he had been on the fence, but the survey results made his decision clear. He was not in favor of moving forward on the issue. Treasurer Sabrina Freeman agreed. “We’re here for the residents and the majority are not for it so I am not for it.”

The board then voted unanimously to recommend that the Planning Commission not take action on the matter and keep the status quo.

Special Assessment for Round Lake Approved

A second public hearing was held during the meeting. It was for a special assessment for herbicide treatments to control aquatic weeds in Round Lake.

Twenty-one parcels would be subject to the special assessment which would run for five years. Each year’s assessment would be $310 for a total of $1,550. A similar assessment has been charged for the past 15 years.

“My objection is not only to paying for it but doing it in the first place,” one resident said. She did not think “poison” should be dumped into the lake, and more natural biological alternatives could be used instead.

Two other Round Lake residents disagreed. One man said, “That is a gem of a lake over there, and I don’t want it to turn into a swamp.” He added that the herbicides used are highly regulated.

Another resident added, “You need [the herbicides] or you’re going to lose most of these lakes.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the special assessment for the proposed herbicide weed treatment for Round Lake.

Other Meeting Items

The following also took place during the October Grattan Township Board meeting:

  • During citizen comments, a resident asked that the township hall be opened for at least four hours on Fridays. Current hours are limited to Mondays-Thursdays..
  • Parking lot repairs in the amount of $2,500 were approved
  • Force said he was applying for a grant for $2,500 to pay for a sewer camera. If approved, the township may need to pay an additional $2,500 for the remaining cost of a camera. Currently, the township pays $300 per hour when it needs to hire this work out. Alberts noted that, if approved, that will total $27,500 in grants that Force has secured for the township this year.
  • Alberts would like to put together a survey to ask residents how the township should spend the $415,000 it will be receiving from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Board members agreed, and the survey will be included with winter property tax bills.
  • Board members received an update on two generators being purchased for pump stations near Murray Lake and Big Crooked Lake. The cost will be $149,000. The township will also have a $9,600 expense next year to update Missions 5G radios at 24 pump stations.

The meeting adjourned at 8:33pm, and the next regular meeting of the Grattan Township Board will occur on Monday, November 8, at 7pm.

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