WARREN — The Warren Planning Commission stood with concerned residents near the Roseville border March 9 when it voted to deny a site plan for a marijuana dispensary at the intersection of Hayes and 11 Mile roads.
The vote came despite the recommended approval of the plan — with a list of usual and specific conditions — by the city’s Planning Department and, according to an attorney representing the petitioner, against the city’s own ordinance governing such developments, put in place last fall by a mostly lame duck Warren City Council.
In February, Roseville officials took issue with the proposed development at 14990 E. 11 Mile Road, east of Groesbeck Highway, just west of a Roseville neighborhood across Hayes. While Warren’s ordinance governing dispensaries requires them to be at least 500 feet from any residences in the city, it says nothing about residences in other cities.
Roseville City Attorney Tim Tomlinson also alleged that Warren failed to comply with the state’s Zoning Enabling Act, which requires notices of public hearings to be sent to property owners within 300 feet of the proposed site, even if those properties fall on the other side of a municipal border.
Warren Planning Director Ron Wuerth confirmed that the city’s zoning ordinance includes the 300-foot provision, but that it does not address sending notices beyond Warren’s borders. He said that while notices were not initially sent, they did go out later.
The council also discussed tweaking the marijuana facilities ordinance that requires the 500-foot buffer between a dispensary and some properties, including homes, that fall outside the city’s borders.
The Planning Commission’s vote March 9 came after a stream of concerns expressed by Roseville residents and city officials. One group of residents, under the name “DefendRoseville,” used an electronic billboard on Groesbeck to alert neighbors to up to 8 acres of proposed marijuana growing, processing and provisioning sites near the corridor, including future developments on the property in question. The same billboard was used to thank the commission for its vote.
Before the votes were cast, Planning Commission Chair Jocelyn Howard called the site plan a “very unique situation” and said it was a “slippery slope,” given its proximity to the neighboring houses.
“I believe that it is disingenuous of this commission or anyone to act as if they don’t see the houses across the street. It is very apparent that there are residents,” Howard said.
She joined commission members Jason McClanahan, Natasha Houghten, John Kupiec, Claudette Robinson and Syed Rob in voting to deny the plan. Commission member Nathan Vinson voted no on the denial, and commission members Warren Smith and Sultana Chowdhury were absent.
Howard added that the commission’s bylaws charge its members with ensuring “good civic design.”
“This is not a good civic design. It’s not good for our neighboring communities,” Howard said. “We are the third-largest city (in Michigan) and we cannot be a bully to our neighboring communities.”
Attorney David Viar, representing the petitioner, Warren Capital Holding II LLC, asked that the matter be tabled for two weeks, but the request was denied. He later called on commission members to approve the site plan, which he said followed the requirements of the ordinance, if not the “spirit of the law” that Howard had mentioned.
“They met all the requirements of your administration of the Planning Commission, and they are entitled to this use at that location,” Viar said. “I think the Planning Commission should consider the law and its own zoning ordinance, an ordinance that allows for this use at that location.
“If the ordinance, as you pointed out, needs to be amended to be more sensitive to boundary issues, then that’s something for the future. But the ordinance now in place permits this use at this location, and the petitioner has fulfilled all the requirements for a yes vote on its petition.”
Responding to the Planning Commission’s vote, Tomlinson said that he, the Roseville City Council and the city’s mayor are all happy with the decision, and that they believe Warren did the right thing.
“We’re pleased with the city of Warren’s Planning Commission saying that the buffer zone should apply equally to Warren and Roseville residents,” Tomlinson said. “This was an example of them being good neighbors and good stewards for the city, and we will continue to reciprocate in the same fashion.”
Tomlinson added that he’s not sure what the future holds in regard to the site, but that he thinks the right decisions were made by Warren city officials.
“We never had any discussion about what we would have done if the facility had been approved. We’re just glad they made the decision they did,” Tomlinson said. “We don’t know what the petitioner will do as a result of this decision, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Staff Writer Brendan Losinski contributed to this report.