CHEBOYGAN — Several City of Cheboygan residents and business owners expressed their concerns with medical marijuana facilities being able to be located in the downtown area of Main Street during public comment at the city council’s April 28 meeting.
Brian Lange owns several businesses in the downtown area and he is opposed to the medical marijuana businesses being able to be located on Main Street.
“There are several of us that have made some pretty significant investments recently in Main Street,” said Lange said at the Cheboygan City Council meeting.
Lange said he was looking at opening up another business in the downtown area, to address a need for prenatal supplies and offer some clinics in the downtown area, in a building he owns adjacent to one that is currently being considered for medical marijuana distribution.
“Which completely upended my program and the building is currently up for sale, as a result,” he said. “I just wanted to make comment that I think whatever people choose to do is their own business. But after going through the Main Street Select program and all that work, as a family friendly space, dedicated to the arts, I’m having a hard time seeing that the sale of marijuana on Main Street is what we’re looking for in this whole process.”
Lange’s wife, Sharen Lange, also expressed her concerns with these businesses potentially being in the downtown area and requested the city council members make good decisions that will be good for the community for the next 20 years, not just the next 24 months.
John Costin, who owns several businesses on Main Street with his wife Marcella, also expressed his concern with medical marijuana facilities being allowed on Main Street. He requested the city council members reevaluate the allowance of that type of facility on Main Street and he does not feel the medical marijuana facilities are consistent with the family friendly atmosphere the city is trying to promote downtown.
“I feel that most people know a lot more on this subject today and I believe views have very much shifted,” said Costin. “Why have these shops on Main Street? It does not fit with the overall direction that Main Street is taking.”
Costin said he doesn’t believe the city went through the two-year process of becoming a Main Street Select community, or people making big investments in the community to improve the downtown area, to have the marijuana shops on Main Street. He would like to have the opinions of the city as a whole, all residents and business owners be made known and to possibly reevaluate the actions the city council has taken so far.
“And really make sure the decision we make is one we want to stick with,” said Costin. “I personally don’t want to be someone who, in six month’s time, says ’Oh, why didn’t I get involved? Why didn’t I have my say?’ So, my plea to the city council, who is doing great work right now, is to think about reevaluating the decisions that have been made and look back and make forward decisions that we’re all going to be appreciative of.”
Sherry Nelson, who volunteers on many different committees and is very active in the downtown Cheboygan area, applauded the city for permitting the medical marijuana facilities, but she believes the city should have had the foresight to not allow it in the downtown area. This type of business restricts access for families and does not fit with the family friendly guidelines of the Michigan Main Street program, especially with two of the most prominent buildings in downtown possibly being considered for medical marijuana facilities.
“I don’t think it’s an image that we want to present in two of our most prominent blocks downtown,” said Nelson. “I think there is definitely a place for it in Cheboygan, and I think we should take advantage of being able to have the presence in town. But, if there could be a restriction in the most prominent areas, where we do draw the most families, at our festivals and kids’ parties and programs and markets, I think that we could find other alternatives and present off Main Street provisions in those two blocks. It would be much more satisfactory and suitable for this.”
There are very small pockets in the downtown Cheboygan area, on Main Street, that are zoned where the medical marijuana facilities could be located, that will also be in compliance with the buffer zones between churches and schools.
Councilman Brett Mallory has also expressed his concerns regarding how the medical marijuana facilities in the downtown area do not fit with the family friendly profile the city is trying to keep in the downtown area.
Mallory said he was under the assumption that there were very few places in the downtown area that there would be able to be a medical marijuana business located, due to the regulations put in place by the state.
“So it was kind of put to me that it was a non-issue, more or less,” said Mallory. “That’s what was relayed to me. That’s how I took it at least.”
Cheboygan City Mayor Mark Bronson said the medical marijuana establishments have been discussed by the city for over a year, with many public meetings, so it doesn’t make sense to him why these concerns are all of a sudden being voiced.
The zoning and ordinance allowing these facilities in the city was approved Feb. 25. Several city council members stated their opinion that that would have been a much better time to have the opposition to allowing it in the Main Street zoning district, B-2, rather than having it almost two months later.
Council members also stated there should be more discussion in the future as to whether the city wants to include more zoning districts in the allowable areas for these facilities or not, as well as better research done regarding the regulations for facilities in the state. The council members want to do what’s best for everyone, but they are not going to be able to please everyone all the time, therefore they are willing to take a harder look at the matter in the future.
Bronson shared his thoughts that the medical marijuana businesses are legal businesses, therefore, they should not be treated any different than any other legal business. In the last two years, the city has issued three special permits for alcohol in the downtown area.
“If we’re truly concerned about this being a family friendly town, how does that fit in? Should we not allow alcohol downtown? These downtown properties that have been sold have been on the market for years. Anyone could have purchased these,” said Bronson. “Now we’re looking at an investment of over half a million dollars, that if we decide to change our rules, we’re going to be on the hook for. Not only that, but the loss of business. I think there’s a lot of issues. Stepping back, I don’t think is the direction we want to take.”
Bronson said the last thing he wanted to say is that the City of Cheboygan, for both medical and recreational use, overwhelmingly voted in support of making marijuana legal. If the city were to restrict or prohibit either, they would be disregarding the voice of the electorate.