Township approves amendments to home occupation, caregiver ordinance

FLUSHING TWP. — Flushing Township is continuing to adjust its proposed home occupation ordinance, following months of discussion and several protests from medical marijuana caregivers.

At last month’s Flushing Township Board of Trustees meeting, the township board implemented key changes to its home occupation ordinance and clarified certain areas in the draft language that impact caregivers. The home occupation ordinance was originally brought up for adoption in February but was tabled and sent back to the Planning Commission after many area caregivers argued that it was too restrictive and in violation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act of 2008.

As part of the changes, the township board removed a reference that would have required caregivers to have at least two acres to grow marijuana. The ordinance originally had a five-acre requirement that was reduced to two acres by the Planning Commission last month.

Many local caregivers opposed the ordinance’s original minimum acreage requirement, saying that it would have effectively prevented 70 to 75 percent of caregivers from operating within the township.

Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby said that the ordinance’s new language will enable the township to prevent medical marijuana grows in certain, densely packed subdivision areas without disenfranchising caregivers because of an acreage limit.

“The main difference is that now we’ve been able to put language in that prevents (outdoor marijuana growing) in places like subdivisions, platted subdivisions and planned urban developments,” Thorsby said. “Rather than based on size of the lot, the regulation is based more on how a lot is designated.”

The township board also approved a change made by the Planning Commission to allow caregivers to use 25 percent (or up to 650 square feet) of their home’s normal square footage for medical marijuana growth and storage, plus the square footage of their basements. Previously, the ordinance limited growing space for plants to 375 square feet.

Trustees also clarified that only the township building inspector, township code enforcement officer and Flushing Township Police will be allowed to inspect caregiver operations—rather than just any township staff member.

While several caregivers in attendance at the May 13 meeting said that they were relieved by some of the changes made to the ordinance, objections were still raised to other portions—including provisions that would require caregivers to obtain a special land use permit to grow marijuana and prevent caregivers from growing outdoors.

Buddy Dalton, a primary caregiver in Flushing Township, said that the township should keep the permit process confidential, rather than requiring caregivers to seek a special land use permit and address the Planning Commission during a public meeting.

“You have an obligation to protect your residents,” he said. “If you call them up here and put their name and address on the internet and up here… that is putting them in danger from people who could steal their plants. Keep (the permit) in the office.”

Dalton also said that the township should consider eliminating inspections for licensed caregivers, raising the square footage allotment for indoor growing and allowing caregivers to grow at least once a year outdoors.

Township officials have said that the home occupation ordinance is necessary to discourage the theft of medical marijuana, prevent illegal outdoor grow operations from popping up in the township and ensure that caregivers live on the property where they are growing marijuana.

A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the next Flushing Township Board of Trustees meeting on June 10.