FENNVILLE, M.I. (WOOD) — A small town in Michigan is opening the doors to recreational marijuana and those doors happen to belong to the old city hall, which is slated to become a dispensary.
Just this week, the city of Fennville began hosting meetings at its spacious new city hall, which was formerly a Chemical Bank. The mayor is pretty pleased with the results.
“We thought this is a much better gathering space, a more visible building for our public,” Mayor Tom Pantelleria said on Thursday, adding that it is an improvement over the former city hall, a block down on S. Maple Street.
“It’s an older building. It was out of the way,” Pantelleria said. “It wasn’t very prestigious in my mind.”
In addition to being newer and better located, the city now has a large municipally-owned parking lot in the main business area, but that left them with the old city hall to deal with.
All this happened to coincide with the city commission decision last month to opt into the state’s recreational marijuana industry.
In November of 2018, more than 65 percent of Fennville residents voted in favor of decriminalizing the use and sales of adult-use marijuana, which was noticed by the city commission.
“So, they thought that was kind of a signal from the public that they were OK with marijuana sales and the opportunity to have businesses here,” Pantelleria said.
This provided an opportunity for the city.
“With us opting in and this building becoming available, it stirred some interest among people who wanted to start a marijuana business,” Pantelleria said.
Fennville approved two each of dispensaries, processors and grow operations.
Pantelleria said the plan is to keep marijuana businesses off the main drag.
“Some people might be offended if it’s on the main street, young families especially. And a lot of other people, it probably won’t bother them at all,” Pantelleria said.
An unscientific sampling of opinion by people around downtown Fennville Thursday found most people feeling generally OK with the possible dispensary, including Evelyn Green who works at the Hop n bar on Main Street. She answered in the affirmative when asked if a dispensary would be good for Fennville.
“I believe so, because as everyone knows, marijuana does make people more hungry and for our business, I think it would work,” Green said.
Wyoming resident Patricia Dewenter, who has been working to get a business off the ground in Fennville and in Grand Rapids, paid $282,000 for the former city hall building.
She said working with Fennville has been much easier than dealing with Grand Rapids when it comes to the marijuana industry.
“It’s like night and day. The city of Fennville clearly voted yes and they are very welcoming,” Dewenter said. “I would like to be what they call a destination dispensary, where people from all over come.”
She hopes to hire disabled veterans and to discount for medical marijuana patients.
The tentative plan is to open in September, but there is still the mater of rezoning the building to commercial use, which will be the subject of a planning commission meeting on March 23 at 6 p.m.