Norman Township official says permitting process requires application, public hearings
NORMAN TWP. — Debi Bair’s plans to open Camp Happy Trees, a cannabis-friendly campground, are on hold for the moment after being contacted by Norman Township officials.
Bair previously told the News Advocate that she had bought 20 acres near the corner of Hoxeyville and Fawn roads south of Wellston and had planned to turn it into Camp Happy Trees. She had tentatively hoped to open it as a rustic campground this month.
However, according to a Norman Township zoning administrator, it would need to be addressed by the township’s planning commission before anyone can start camping there.
On the Camp Happy Trees Facebook page, Bair shared a photo of a stop work order notice with orders to cease and desist that was dated June 30 from Norman Township’s Planning and Zoning office.
The post with the photo said that a previously scheduled glow party event onsite had been canceled.
In part, the township’s notice stipulated that the property does not have the property application and permitting for camping activities and that there is “no known approved sanitary or potable water facilities on site to support a gathering…” The full wording of the notice was not visible in the photo.
In a Facebook message, Bair said she has had an overwhelming response of hundreds if not thousands of messages of support for her endeavors to bring Camp Happy Trees to life.
She said the township office had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that she “took a chance by coming up here without speaking to them first.”
In an email late last month to the News Advocate from Norman Township Zoning Administrator Ben Townsend, he said the township’s offices had been closed for nearly three months.
Townsend said after returning to the office, he learned about Bair’s plans and presented the township’s zoning ordinance information to her.
He said he had presented the basics of a special use zoning application for a commercial campground.
Townsend explained that Norman Township’s campground permitting process requires the application to go before the planning commission. There would also need to be a public hearing.
That hearing would require notification letters be sent from the zoning office to anyone living within 300 feet of the property as well as a public notification.
The hearing would give an opportunity for residents to speak on concerns, voice support or simply ask questions or make statements about the property intentions.
Townsend said the last campground application process in the township took three months for the owners to get their paperwork submitted. There were also two public hearings in that case.
He cited part of the township’s zoning ordinance saying that it stipulates that campgrounds would need to follow state health department rules.
Townsend also called into question the legality of having marijuana used at the site. He could not be reached for further details and clarifications by press time Thursday afternoon.
Bair would also need to get a campground operating license from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, he said.
Bair said she is speaking to her attorney on her next steps on plans for Camp Happy Trees.