2017-07-13 / Front Page

Opposition runs high for marijuana facility

150 attend hearing
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


A RAMBUNCTIOUS CROWD holds up signs to show the Solon Township Planning Commission their opposition to a zoning amendment that could pave the way for marijuana growing facilities near their homes. A RAMBUNCTIOUS CROWD holds up signs to show the Solon Township Planning Commission their opposition to a zoning amendment that could pave the way for marijuana growing facilities near their homes. A ‘conditional zoning’ amendment that could allow marijuana growing facilities in Solon Township moved beyond its first hurdle for adoption at a public hearing held Tuesday.

The Solon Township Planning Commission on a vote of 6-1 approved a motion to forward the amendment to the county planning commission for its recommendation subject to the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.

But Solon planners stopped short of making an actual recommendation in favor of the zoning amendment.

The next step in the process may have the amendment coming back to Solon Township planners, who would consider any county input and tweak the amendment if needed before making a recommendation and forwarding it to the Solon Township Board for possible adoption.

SAMUEL ROSINSKI, a third-generation native of Solon Township, faces opposition from fellow residents — and some support — in his desire to build a marijuana growing facility.SAMUEL ROSINSKI, a third-generation native of Solon Township, faces opposition from fellow residents — and some support — in his desire to build a marijuana growing facility.
More than 150 people — most of them Solon Township residents — sweltered through nearly three hours of public comment at the hearing, held at the Township Hall in Cedar.

Cars were parked up and down Cedar’s main drag, with some meeting-goers comparing the event to a Saturday night wedding reception.

Many of them carried bright yellow signs proclaiming “Just Say No to Grow.”

Those coming out against allowing the growing facility, who were clearly in the majority, included nurses, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and residents who say that Solon Township is no place for marijuana.

Wendy Christiani, a pharmacist, said she has seen the effects of marijuana on children who are harmed by early exposure to marijuana.

“We do not need more major drugs in this area,” Christiani said.

County Undersheriff Steve Morgan gave the Planning Commission a petition with 75 signatures of people against the facility. Most of them live on Lincoln Road, he said.

Sheriff Mike Borkovich objected, saying “We’re a drug-addicted nation and that’s where my concerns come in.”

County Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell also objected.

“I think there are going to be a lot of unintended consequences that will happen if this zoning change is allowed,” Hubbell said. “As a prosecutor, I would urge you not to pass this.”

Far fewer people came out in favor of the growing facility. They included an attorney for the Cannabis Legal Group, a patient advocate with the National Patients Rights Association, a lobbyist with the Michigan Cannabis Development Association (MCDA) and a real estate agent who assured the crowd that their property values would not go down and may actually increase due to increased employment.

“I guarantee you have patients and you have caregivers in your community that you don’t even know about,” said Sandra McCormick, the MCDA lobbyist.

None live in Solon township, though about a dozen township residents supported the facility.

Including Mike Smith, who told the crowd he was dying of stage 4 cancer.

“You people are the ones who can save the next guy — not me — by being a part of this,” Smith said. “This drug has the potential to save lives.”

While the amendment language in the zoning amendment doesn’t specifically name marijuana growing facilities, it allows for the township to approve them if they meet all zoning requirements.

Unlike standard zoning, according to Tim Cypher, the Solon Township zoning administrator, under conditional zoning a proposal can be rejected by a township planning commission for several reasons, including a site plan review that doesn’t meet requirements or the proposal doesn’t fit in with the township’s master plan.

“There’s checks and balances along the way,” Cypher said.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last year signed three bills intended to make implementation of the voter-approved medical marijuana law easier. The laws regulate the growing, processing and transporting of medical marijuana.

The request for the zoning change came from Samuel Rosinski, who wants to establish a state-licensed commercial medical cannabis facility at 6100 E. Lincoln Road.

The facility would include a 143- foot by 143-foot pole barn on a 78-acre parcel that would be used to grow, process and test products that would be sold to state-approved facilities.

Rosinski has said there would be no retail sales at the facility.

“I know I heard a lot of opposition tonight,” Rosinski said. “But there are a vast amount of proponents in this area,” many of whom are afraid to come forward because of the stigma.

But medical marijuana is an “alternate means of health care,” he said.

Rosinski’s proposal includes research that shows the active chemicals in cannabis can be used to treat glaucoma, epileptic seizures, Alzheimer’s disease and can ease the pain, nausea and lack of appetite experienced by people going through chemotherapy.

Many of those who spoke out against the grow facility on Tuesday said they were not debating the merits of medical marijuana, but just do not want a grow operation in their township.

They object to the odor, noise, traffic and lights they say the facility will generate.

Many are also worried that the amendment will open a door that can’t be shut.

“This amendment is not about a growing operation,” said township resident Kim Smith. “If passed, this will open up a Pandora’s Box that will affect every single parcel in the township ... and leave the township wide open for spot zoning.”

Eric Winkelman of Glen Arbor said the growing of cannabis will affect the unique character of the county and won’t create job opportunities.

“If anything it will severely compromise that long-term opportunity,” Winkelman said.

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