2017-08-10 / Front Page

Cannabis questions continue

Solon Bd. may upend process
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

An attorney representing Solon Township ripped a county planning report as factually incorrect, questions arose over why and how the township accepted a $3,000 “donation” from a proposed medical marijuana facility, and an effort to limit public comment to 45 seconds per person was quashed.

Yet, the most pertinent information to arise from a well-attended, 3 1/2-hour Leelanau County Planning Commission meeting held Tuesday may be that the entire process used to gain permission to build a medical marijuana growing and processing plant could be undercut tonight by the Solon Township Board.

Steve Yoder, a member of three governmental bodies involved in the process, urged those in attendance Tuesday to follow up by attending the Solon Township Board meeting at 7 tonight in the Township Hall in Cedar.

“I want to encourage every open of you to come to that meeting,” said Yoder, a trustee on the five-member Township Board. “I appreciate all of your comments, and it’s not falling on deaf ears.”

Item No. 6 on the meeting agenda is “Medical Marijuana Resolution.” A state law just going into effect allows for expansion of the medical marijuana industry in Michigan, but gives local townships authority to ban facilities within their jurisdictions.

Added Yoder after the meeting, “It’s something that I think should be settled, because I think the public wants it settled. I would like the township to make a decision.”

Little was done to “settle” the medical marijuana issue at the county planning meeting, but that was expected. The county Planning Commission is charged with reviewing and commenting on proposed zoning decisions before townships, but has no authority to make decide local matters.

Still, more than 40 people attended the commission meeting. They heard conflicting reports on the issue. In fact, the basic premise that an application has been filed by a corporation named “42 degrees” to build a marijuana production center in the township came under question.

Solon Township was represented at the meeting by its attorney David A. Bieganowski, who at one time said that the township had to “process his application” and later said that “there is no active application from Mr. Rosinski in Solon Township ... we don’t have any active applications from Mr. Rosinski or anybody else.”

Bieganowski was referring to Samuel A. Rosinski, who owns 78 acres in Solon Township. He prepared a “Solon Township Proposal” submitted on April 26 to the Solon Township Planning Commission outlining plans to build a state-licensed commercial medical cannabis facility with an address of 6100 E. Lincoln Road. It would include a 20,500 square foot pole barn that would be used to grow, process and test products that would eventually be sold to medical marijuana card holders.

The issue before county planners, though, was narrower. Rosinski is seeking to change the township Zoning Ordinance to allow what are termed “conditional rezonings” in a variety of zoning districts, including the agriculturally zoned land owned by him.

Bieganowski said Rosinski was trying to “back door” his facility through the zoning process.

“We’re shoe horning a square peg in a round hole. It doesn’t work, but it could work down the road. he’s going through the back door. We’d prefer he goes through the front door, but he didn’t,” Bieganowski told county planners.

Bieganowski left open questions about why minutes of township meetings show that Solon accepted a $3,000 “escrow” from 42 degrees and a $100 fee for a land use permit.

“My understanding is Mr. Rosinski voluntarily donated money to help the township defray the cost of this process. Whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know. It’s not part of an application fee, in my mind, but I’m not involved in that.”

Minutes of June 8 Solon Township Board meeting include a report from Zoning Administrator Tim Cypher stating, “Planning Commission escrow, 42 degrees, $3,000.” The funds were dated May 31.

Bieganowski ripped a lengthy report prepared by the county Planning staff that took issue with the conditional zoning change forwarded by the Solon Township Planning Commission.

Leelanau County community planner Trudy Galla countered, “I stand behind our staff report. We’ve put a lot of research into this.”

Galla pointed out that some information in the report was based on approved minutes of Solon Township Planning Commission meetings. “If the minutes aren’t correct, then they should be corrected ... I talked to Mr. Cypher on several occasions and got emails from him before this staff report was put together.”

Cypher did not attend the meeting.

County planners were solidly on the side of Galla, voting unanimously to forward concerns in the report to Solon Township.

They were substantial. For instance, Solon should “first determine if they want to add conditional rezoning to the zoning ordinance,” the report stated. The township Planning Commission sidestepped the issue, voting 6-1 to refer the proposal to the county without making a recommendation.

Also, the report questioned how Rosinski could have already been given conditional approval from the DEQ, a soil erosion permit could have been issued by the county and why a visit from the fire chief has been scheduled. “How have these approvals been received already when the Conditional Rezoning Procedure has not been acted on by the township ...?” it queried.

All people who spoke about the proposal at the meeting opposed the project — although saying so proved difficult at times as county Planning Commission chair Victor Goldschmidt sought to curtail use of what he termed the “M” word. But people found a way, using terms such as the “specific proposed use.”

Those in attendance grew unsettled when Goldschmidt at first sought to limit public comment to 45 seconds, then relented to one minute when audience members spoke out, and eventually settled at three minutes after Galla reminded the chair that commission policy allows three minutes per speaker during public hearings.

“Are you being facetious?” asked one resident.

During public comment, Solon resident Michael Smith said, “Once conditional zoning is added to the ordinance, it will be easier to abuse power.”

Goldschmidt’s attempt to steer discussion away from any reference to medical marijuana extended to Bienanowski while the attorney was giving his report.

“There is a first amendment right,” responded county planner Eric Winkleman.

Rosinski, for his part, did not speak during the meeting. When asked, though, he explained why he sought the change allowing conditional rezoning rather than follow a more traditional route in gaining permission to build a medical marijuana facility.

“I wanted my project vetted throughout the process. I wanted to use that for educational purposes,” he said.

Rosinski added that he believes most residents back his effort.

“I know they aren’t inherently opposed to medical marijuana. I think they are more opposed to having a new agricultural use in their back yards. I think members of this forum will agree with that,” he said.

Return to top