Medical marijuana facility hits snag

DAVISON — Placing a medical marijuana facility on a piece of city-owned property may prove to be too time consuming and difficult for the developer, who’s now asking the city for help to get his project off the ground.

Jim Joubran, with High Society Wellness, was granted the city’s only medical marijuana license back in September, as he was the only applicant.

The city’s marijuana facility ordinance narrowed down the options of potential developers to one site – a parcel of city-owned property at 920 N. State Rd. in front of Continental Estates mobile home park.

Joubran said he spent in excess of $10,000 of his own money doing legwork on the State Road property to “speed up the process”, only to learn the amount of work needed to make the site buildable might prove costly and would be mired with county and state hurdles.

“It will work, but it comes with a lot of challenges – not just the money. It’s the time and legwork,” Joubran told the Davison Medical Marijuana Licensing Committee, Jan. 22. “This is the city’s responsibility to do, not mine.”

He said the money and legwork he’s done so far was to help facilitate the project, but without the city helping with pulling permits and dealing with bureaucratic matters – because it is city-owned land he’ll be leasing – Joubran said he’s not sure if he can proceed from this point.

The site is buildable, he said, but he admits it would take a lot of work to get to that point. He cited challenges by the Michigan Department of Transportation, who will likely want him to build an acceleration lane on M-15.

He said the county water and waste will also want him to move storm water retention for the property underground, which is extremely expensive.

“MDOT is never happy to put a new drive onto M-15,” said Joubran. “And with utilities running across the property that go to mobile home park behind it, that will reduce the size of the area I can build on. I’ll barely have room to put up a dispensary because of utilities shrinking the size of the facility. All this doesn’t even address the issue of road right of way and sewer easement.”

What he originally planned to be an 1,800-square-foot facility would likely now be about 1,000-square-feet.

Members of the committee said they could see if there are other properties in the city available, but with much of the city built-out, finding something that fits within the restrictive parameters of the medical marijuana facility ordinance would be almost impossible.

Saulius Mikalonis, the city’s attorney for medical marijuana licensing issues, said if the city considered an alternate site, it won’t likely fit the zoning requirements of the ordinance, which were specifically written to contain such a development to the 920 S. State Rd. property.

“You can’t do it without changing the zoning ordinance,” said Mikalonis. “I don’t know the answer to it, but with the setbacks and all the requirements you can’t just say ‘that didn’t work we have to move somewhere else’ without changing the ordinance.”

Joubran asked if property he owns on North State Road, where he tore down several homes about two years ago, would work instead of the city-owned property to the north. Currently, he has plans to put a small strip mall at the South State Road site in the near future.

“That’s not going to fit, not even close,” said City Attorney Ridley Nimmo.

He added if the city were to consider moving the site somewhere else, which would require changing the zoning ordinance, it would mean completely reopening the license to bids.

City Manager Andrea Schroeder said the city specifically zoned the 920 N. State Rd. property to meet the requirements for a medical marijuana facility because it was the only site far enough away from schools, daycares and churches to meet the preferences of the council and the state law.

“I just want to do whatever is legal with the state,” she said. “I’m disappointed the north property is not going to work.”

Councilman Ron Emery said he understands Joubran’s “angst” regarding the money he’s put into the project, but he reminded Joubran the city also has money invested in the project.

Schroeder asked if Joubran would still consider the site if the city got its attorneys looking into what can be done through the lease process to move forward with the property.

Joubran said he’d consider it but would need to meet with his team to discuss it. He said he’d rather not have the bidding process opened to the public again, but raised questions about who would pay for the acceleration lane on M-15 and expedite the process with the state, as well as who would pay for the storm sewer issues there and the moving of the utilities.

“Just retaining the storm water underground is a huge cost. You’re talking 30 times the cost as it would be above ground,” said Joubran. “I just wish the city did more of their homework, so they knew what they were getting into with this piece of property.”

Newly-elected Councilman Casey Clark questioned if these things were the city’s obligation and Schroeder said the city has never had a development like this before – though in subdivision developments those costs are usually the developers.

Nimmo said whoever the applicant was took on whatever responsibilities there were.

“This may or may not turn out to be the greatest location; it might turn out to be challenging, but it sounds workable,” said Nimmo. “It’s just not as easy as Mr. Joubran wanted it to be.”

Mayor Tim Bishop said the city will have to work on what happens next to try and move the project forward.