MI: Medical Marijuana Ordinance Repealed In Rural Kalamazoo County

Photo Credit: Antonio Perez

Residents of a rural township in Kalamazoo County are breathing a bit easier as their organized resistance to medical marijuana appears to be paying off.

Tuesday, the Ross Township Board of Trustees repealed an ordinance that legalizes medical marijuana facilities and sets a process for obtaining permission to open them. A second ordinance dealing with the zoning districts marijuana businesses can open was not repealed.

Supervisor Gary Moore said the township is going to “take a step back, revisit and take another swing” at creating marijuana ordinances that align with the community’s interests. The Planning Commission will be charged with reexamining the zoning districts where marijuana facilities could open.

“Ross Township is a good community and we are going to work our way through this,” Moore said.

Kalamazoo County Clerk Tim Snow said he was notified by residents that a petition to recall the township board would be turned in to his office Wednesday afternoon.

The township will partner with a Western Michigan University professor to create a survey that will be mailed to registered voters by the end of the month.

Ordinance 210 was not on a version of June 12 agenda posted online before the meeting. Moore said Robb Blain drafted the ordinance with the township attorney after the agenda had been printed.

It passed unanimously, the supervisor said.

The two-page ordinance simply repeals Ordinance 205, specifically stating marijuana facilities allowed under state law are not authorized to be located in Ross Township.

Residents called for a repeal of Ordinance 205 and 209 in public meetings. They’re halfway to succeeding.

The Planning Commission will postpone the consideration of medical marijuana applications while it reviews Ordinance 209, which deals with zoning of medical marijuana facilities.

Three applications for medical marijuana facilities have already been submitted to the township. These applications haven’t been approved and will not move forward while Ross Township works on Ordinance 209.

Discussion on permits requested by Park Street Holdings, LLC, Kula Farms, LLC and Kula Co. LLC. on June 25 will be put on hold. The entities were seeking indoor grower, outdoor grower and processor facilities on 73 acres at EF Avenue and 44th Street.

Moore said developers are being notified of the freeze. He didn’t express much concern about frustrating entrepreneurs who invested time and resources to develop site plans.

“We’ll work it out,” he said.

The most recent application was discussed at a June 11 Planning Commission meeting, which drew hundreds of residents.

Seven Point Supply, LLC President Kyle Barker, his attorney and architects gave a 40-minute presentation to the commission Monday. Barker planned to grow 4,500 marijuana plants at indoor and outdoor facilities on 60 acres at the corner of EF Avenue and 44th Street.

Barker declined to comment on township’s decision to go back to the drawing board Wednesday.

Ordinance 209 allows growers, processors, secure transporters and safety compliance facilities in industrial districts. Growers, and processors when on the same site as a grower facility, are allowed as special uses in rural residential districts and agricultural preservation districts.

At the Monday Planning Commission meeting, residents objected to allowing marijuana growers in rural residential zoning districts.

They felt their homes would plagued by marijuana odor and put at risk of crime. Other residents were concerned and the amount of water and energy consumed by marijuana grow operations.

Planning Commission Chair Jim Lauderdale said the district was originally meant for agriculture, and housing developments were added later.

According to the township’s zoning ordinance, rural residential districts are meant to preserve the rural character of an area. They also encourage preservation of active agriculture, sensitive environmental features and large open spaces.

Ross Township for Sustainable Development, an advocacy group organized by residents to repeal the township’s marijuana ordinances, celebrated the win. The group marshaled organized resistance at public meetings during the last few months.

In a Facebook post, the group didn’t declare the fight to be over. It encouraged residents to keep vigilant as the Planning Commission works on the zoning ordinance.

“I think they will be more involved in their community, and that’s a good thing,” Moore said.