Flushing Township passes home occupation ordinance

FLUSHING TWP. — After several months of adjustments and changes, Flushing Township has finally passed a home occupation ordinance to regulate medical marijuana caregiver operations.

At the Aug. 12 township meeting, trustees approved a second and final reading of the ordinance by a 6-1 vote, with Trustee William Westenbarger casting the lone dissenting vote.

Township officials said that the home occupation ordinance is a necessary mechanism for preventing illegal outdoor marijuana grow operations and the theft of medical marijuana in the township. The ordinance is also designed to ensure that licensed caregivers must live on the property where they are growing marijuana.

While the ordinance will prevent all outdoor marijuana growing in the township, licensed caregivers will still be able to grow inside their homes or in a secure accessory structure. Current and prospective caregivers who are growing for patients outside their homes will also have to apply for a permit, which will be handled confidentially at the township offices.

However, licensed caregivers who are only growing and providing medical marijuana for themselves and/or a patient living in their home—such as a spouse, child, parent or partner—will not have to apply for a permit.

Originally, the township proposed the home occupation ordinance in January and was poised to pass a second reading in February. But after receiving considerable backlash from caregivers inside and outside the township, trustees opted to table the ordinance and send it back to the Planning Commission for changes.

Following concerns and input levied by caregivers, the township then worked to craft an ordinance that would crack down on illegal growing operations without placing undue regulations on licensed caregivers and ensuring that their privacy stayed intact through the permit process.

Along the way, several controversial measures were removed from the ordinance, including sections that would have required caregivers to have at least five acres to grow marijuana and appear before the Planning Commission to obtain a special land use permit if they wanted to grow marijuana in an accessory building.

“We’ve worked very hard at this and taken a lot of input, and I think we’ve come up with the very best version,” said Trustee Bill Bain. “There is an enforcement mechanism for people who are violating (the ordinance) and there have been a lot of residents who are for this.”

Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby thanked trustees, caregivers and residents for working toward a more agreeable outcome with the ordinance.

“It’s because of us working together, listening to each side and also knowing that we still have to have an ordinance,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but’s not written in stone either. If we stumble on something that we need to be change, we can do that. I think it’s the best we could come up with the under the circumstances.”

Thorsby also said that the ordinance will keep a rising trend of illegal outdoor grow operations from popping up in the township.

“We have people in here weekly—sometimes two or three times a week—wanting to do exactly what this ordinance prevents them from doing,” he said. “That is, buying property and growing marijuana to sell it but not living there.

“All we’re interested in is controlling the true illegal operations,” Thorsby added. “We want to stop the criminals, not people who are legitimately operating as (licensed) caregivers.”

Altogether, the township worked through five drafts of the ordinance over the spring and summer until approving the final document last week.