SWARTZ CREEK – Canadian investors are eying the 100-acre property once known as Sports Creek Raceway, but some city officials are not enthusiastic about the proposed development.
Windsor, Ontario-based TDE Group principals envision a flex (light) industrial, mixed use development, according to Justin Dunaskiss, a partner in Dunaskiss Consulting & Development and a spokesman for TDE.
The caveat is that TDE proposes to anchor the project with a tenant or tenants whose business is medical marijuana.
“They (TDE) are serious, and they are ready to go,” said Dunaskiss, who added that TDE has a signed purchase agreement with the seller.
Dunaskiss did not say whether the purchase agreement is contingent upon city leaders opting-in to the state’s new medical marijuana licensing laws, but he said the developers are disinclined to pursue the project without a medical marijuana business to act as “a catalyst to bring forth other opportunities.”
“It’s an emerging market,” he said. “It will bring great jobs, a great tax base, diversity, opportunity.”
Dunaskiss said TDE employs more than 500 people who provide municipal snow plowing and landscaping services in Michigan. The company has a proven track record internationally and has zero debt, he said.
“They’re not in the cannabis industry; they’re developers,” he said.
The city’s planning commission, which has been mulling the medical marijuana issue for months, remains divided on which way to go with the provisions of the Medical Marihuana Facility Licensing Act.
Now, TDE’s proposal presents city officials with a dilemma: they don’t want the former track, which closed in January 2015, to sit idle, but they’re not sold on the medical marijuana idea.
The MMFLA provides for licensure in five categories: manufacture, processing, testing, transport and distribution. Municipalities must opt-in to allow any of the five commercial operations within their borders.
The planning commission is responsible for studying the issues and making a recommendation to the City Council, which will have the final say on whether the city will opt-in.
“We have to consider whether this is something that will benefit our community,” said Mayor David Krueger, who also serves on the planning commission. “Is it something our citizens want? What we don’t want to see is a closed race track.
“They (TDE) are major developers. They see this as a prime property. It’s a beautiful piece of property that could be used for something. So far, TDE is the only potential developer that has been able to secure a purchase agreement from the owner.”
“I don’t want my city to be known as a big pot house,” said Commissioner Betty Binder. “Bringing in a pot industry … I don’t think it’s the way to go. It (marijuana) is also federally against the law.”
Commissioner Bud Grimes said the proposal is reminiscent of the days before the track was developed, when investors also faced opposition.
“There was a big uprising,” Grimes said. “People said the town would be overrun by a criminal element. It didn’t happen. Most people didn’t even know the track was there. I want to see something in there. We need to develop that property.”
Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Pinkston said it’s likely that other investors will be interested in the property.
“I don’t think we have to be desperate or think that this is the only option,” he said.
The planning commission will consider the proposal again at its December meeting.