2017-08-17 / Front Page

Attorney: No cannabis ‘referendum’

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


MORE THAN 100 persons attended Thursday’s meeting during which the Solon Township Board voted to ban the growth and processing of medical marijuana. MORE THAN 100 persons attended Thursday’s meeting during which the Solon Township Board voted to ban the growth and processing of medical marijuana. The would-be developer of a proposed medical marijuana production facility is looking for legal remedies after the Solon Township Board nixed any activity of this kind in the township.

He may have to look long and hard to find any — if at all — according to township attorney Dave Bieganowski.

The Township Board voted unanimously Thursday night to adopt a resolution to ban commercial growing and processing of medical marijuana within its boundaries.

“This stops everything,” Bieganowski told Township Board members who had listened to more than 90 minutes of public comment on the issue. More than 100 people attended the regular, monthly meeting.

Residents turned out in droves to express opposition to the state-licensed commercial cannabis facility proposed on Lincoln Road. The facility, proposed by township resident Sam Rosinski, would include a 20,500 square-foot pole barn that would be used to not only grow, but process and test products that would eventually be sold to medical marijuana cardholders.

However, the state law just going into effect that allows for expansion of the medical marijuana industry in Michigan also gives local townships authority to outlaw cannabis facilities within their jurisdictions.

And the bulk of those who turned out for the meeting spoke in opposition to the proposed development and urged township officials to close the township to marijuana-related activities.

“I live three-quarters of a mile away from the proposed facility and lie in my front yard watching the stars,” Stewart Nunnelly said. “This is the ‘Land of Delight.’ Let’s keep it that way.”

Some speakers questioned the merits of medical marijuana. However, most of those who took the microphone expressed concern about the impact the facility would have on the residential neighborhood.

The 78-acre property is located in the agricultural district, which also includes single-family homes.

“I’m not against medical marijuana, but we don’t need this industry in our neighborhood,” Matt Christiani said. “It’s not appropriate.”

Also speaking in opposition to the proposal was Steve Morgan, county undersheriff and neighborhood resident; county Prosector Joe Hubbell; and retired FBI agent Robert Birdsong.

And some spoke in favor of Rosinski’s project.

Elliott Swift, who past Township Board minutes refer to as Rosinski’s business partner, was given permission to exceed the 3-minute time limit at the microphone. Swift spoke for 11 minutes on behalf of seven or eight township residents.

“It’s a socially responsible and environmentally conscious activity,” Swift said. “Between taxes and (Rosinski’s) pledge to give 1 percent of sales ... the township will see an additional $14,000 in revenue and Leelanau County, $52,000.”

Also supporting the proposal was Rosinski’s uncle and aunt, who live just over the county and township line in Long Lake Township.

However, when Rosinski stood to take the microphone, township Supervisor Jim Lautner, prevented him from speaking.

“You’ve already had your time,” said Lautner, who before the meeting was asked by Rosinski for a spot on the agenda.

Rosinski had already provided Swift with a prepared statement, which Swift had read outloud in first person.

Taking a backseat to the medical marijuana issue at last week’s meeting was a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance that had been pursued concurrently with the planned marijuana operation.

Steve Yoder, township trustee and representative on the Planning Commission, said the township has not yet received a report from the county Planning Commission on the zoning change. County planners reviewed the proposal during its Aug. 8 meeting, sending it back to the township with several suggestions. Township residents opposed to the amendment and the related marijuana proposal also had a strong presence when the county planners met.

Rosinski still backed the amendment, which would allow mixed uses in districts such agriculture.

“The zoning amendment has its place in Solon Township,” Rosinski said. “But looking back, I probably wouldn’t have tied it to a parcel.”

He said he was considering other options to gain permission to build his plant.

Among the ways discussed to overturn the Township Board’s decision on medical marijuana was to place the issue before voters in the form of a referendum.

But there’s nothing in state law authorizing such a vote, according to the township attorney.

“If it were an approved rezoning it could go up for a referendum. But it wouldn’t apply in this case,” Bieganowski said.

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