Photo: (Screenshot/Google Maps)
FILER TWP. — The Filer Township Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to reject a special use permit application for a medical marijuana facility proposed for a location at 4985 Maple Road.
The facility would be the first of its kind in Filer Township.
Planning commissioners were concerned about the property’s size after Filer Township Attorney Richard Wilson pointed out that the township’s zoning ordinance does not allow a building or structure in the agricultural/residential district to be established on any lot with an area less than 5 acres. The area of the Maple Road property is less than 1 acre.
The commission cannot change that regulation, so the only way for the applicants, Michelle Baltazar and William McKenzie, to get around the requirement is to petition the Filer Township Zoning Board of Appeals to vary those terms, Wilson said.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think you would get a variance from the zoning board of appeals because there is no unnecessary hardship or practical difficulties here,” Wilson said to applicants at the hearing. “The fact that you could turn this property into something different and make more money is not grounds for the granting of a variance.”
McKenzie told the commission he felt “blindsided” and said that he was under the impression that his property would be “grandfathered in” under the special use permit he filed because the property existed before the lot size regulations were in place.
He added that he would be filing a petition with the board.
“I’m looking to work with you guys and pay you guys money for a license fee and, you know, whatever you would like us to do,” McKenzie said. “I was hoping that this would be a more amicable discussion where we can figure out how to get this done.”
Wilson responded that McKenzie was asking the planning commission to do something it’s not legally allowed to do.
The planning commission received a petition with 15 signatures opposing a medical marijuana facility on Maple Road before the public hearing.
During the public comments section of the hearing, Grant Township resident Jim Girard said he was caught unaware by the application and wished he had been notified earlier because the property is in the southwest-most corner of Filer Township, just above Mason County’s Grant Township.
“We would ask when you’re affecting another township, let’s try to cover a little bit more area because we were blindsided by this,” he said.
Girard also asked if there was a better location for the facility in a commercial district.
“It doesn’t seem to be a very good fit in a residential agricultural area. It would seem to be a better fit in a commercial district,” he said.
Filer Township officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on why applications were permitted in the agricultural/residential district.
Timeline of marijuana in Filer Township:
2008 – 63% of Michigan voters approved Proposal 1 (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act), allowing patients or primary caregivers registered with the state to possess up to 2.5 ounces of useable marijuana or cultivate up to 12 plants.
2016 – Gov. Rick Syder signed legislation to impose a new tax on dispensary shops and establish a state liscensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana for medicinal purposes. Snyder said municipalities could regulate the location and number of marijuana businesses in their communities.
2018 – Michigan voted to decriminalize recreational marijuana use. Filer Township said “no” to marijuana-based businesses.
January 2019 – Filer Township opted out of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), meaning adult use of marijuana is not permitted in Filer.
September 2019 – Filer Township voted to amend its “Code of Ordinances” to allow certain marijuana facilities by special use permit in limited industrial agricultural residential districts.