Developer, city debate marijuana sales; automotive service off the table at former Kmart site

GRAND BLANC — The owner of the former Kmart/Farmer Jack property says he agrees with city officials who feel that automotive-related businesses aren’t a good fit for the neighborhood, but he’s not keen on their notion to prohibit marijuana sales within the Planned Unit Development.

Doraid Markus, owner of Bloomfield-based Markus Management Group, appeared before the City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 18, to hash out some of the details for the future of the 6-acre parcel and 87,000-square-foot building known as Grand Blanc Marketplace.

“In a Planned Unit Development, we can do a little give and take,” said City Manager Wendy Jean-Buhrer.

“We want to work with our businesses and make sure they’re heard. There are things he really wants, and things we really want and that are important to us as a city. We can’t totally forbid him from developing on his property as long as it’s within the laws. But our council members are passionate about what they want, too.”

A Planned Unit Development provides flexibility for usage beyond the scope of zoning districts and ordinances. In general, it allows for mixed uses, such as residential and commercial, within single properties where zoning may specify one specific use.

In discussion with the City Council, Markus presented his case for including an automotive-type business, and offered assurances that it would not face Saginaw Road.

Jean-Burher countered that city officials would not want a gas station or tire shop facing Grand Blanc High School, either, particularly since voters approved an $87 million bond for districtwide upgrades in May.

She said rumors that city officials were going to approve the gas station are false.

“I hope that was clear (from the meeting) that is not the case,” she said. “It always has (not been the case) from the beginning. Some Kmarts had automotive centers and this was never meant to have that. It was never zoned for that.”

Markus said Jean-Buhrer made a “good point” regarding the school, and agreed to abandon the plan for automotive service, but continued to ask the city to remove the prohibition on marijuana sales.

He pointed out that there is a nationwide movement to decriminalize marijuana, and efforts have largely been successful at the state level.

“What if, at some point, it becomes legal and a company packages it like cigarettes?” he asked, adding that prohibiting the sale of a legal product within the development would give his tenants’ competitors an unfair advantage.

City officials pointed out that, in the event marijuana is legalized, the Marketplace property may be restricted from selling it anyway due to its proximity to both a school and a church.

So far, the City Council has not budged on the restriction, and they advised Markus that he can appeal to a future City Council for an amendment to the Planned Unit Development if the federal government decriminalizes marijuana.

It remains unclear when the development agreement will be finalized, but Jean-Buhrer said city officials are eager to see some progress at the site which has been vacant for seven years.

The project proposal includes a 77,000-square-foot shopping center with three large tenants in spaces measuring 17,000 to 26,350 square feet, plus a 10,880-square-foot building divided into five spaces of 1,660 to 2,750 square feet, and a 6,130-square-foot, stand-alone structure with a drive-through window. Most of the storefronts will face Saginaw Road.

To date, no tenants have been announced. Markus has indicated he is hoping for a 2022 opening.