Township tables caregiver ordinance a second time

FLUSHING TWP. — Flushing Township’s home occupation ordinance will undergo a few more tweaks after trustees voted to table the measure again last week.

On June 10, Flushing Township trustees were set to vote on a second reading of the ordinance but decided that further revisions should be made to the permit application process for medical marijuana caregivers.

Under the proposed ordinance, caregivers in the township would be split into Type 1 and Type 2 categories. Caregivers planning to operate inside their homes would be included in a Type 1 category and would apply for a permit at the township offices—without having to appear before the Planning Commission.

Caregivers seeking to grow and cultivate marijuana in an attached building or detached accessory building would fall into the Type 2 home occupation category and would have to request a non-discretionary special land use permit. To receive a special land use permit, Type 2 caregivers would have to appear before the Planning Commission in a public hearing.

Local caregivers said that having to address the Planning Commission in a public setting could potentially bring them unwanted attention and make their plants a target for thieves.

“By putting caregivers’ names and addresses out on the agenda and the minutes for people to find online…that will put them at risk and their neighbors at risk,” said Jen Lindemann, a Flushing Township caregiver. “To protect Flushing families and caregivers, you should simply remove the language of the special land use permit. Why not have (caregivers) come into the office and apply like they would for the Type 1?”

Flushing Township Attorney Steve Moulton said that the township is required by state statute to have the Planning Commission review special land use permits in a public hearing and to notify other residents in proximity to the applicant about the special land use application.

“At the minimum, we have to put in what the special use is for and who owns the property,” he said. “We don’t have to provide patient lists or publish the driver’s license.”

However, Moulton also said that the township could treat Type 1 and Type 2 permits similarly and have the township administration grant and review applications for all home occupation/ caregiver operations.

“It could become a purely administrative function…with no need for a public hearing in front of the Planning Commission,” he said. “From (the caregiver’s) standpoint, they wouldn’t have to get a special land use permit. That would require the township to be comfortable with administrative decisions on permits…regardless of whether it’s going to be for the caregivers’ dwelling or an accessory structure.”

To change the permit process, Moulton said that the township board would have to table the ordinance and come back with a new, amended first reading.

Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby said that administrative decisions on home occupation permits should be made collectively, so that decisions aren’t left to just one individual.

“It could be myself, the clerk (Wendy Meinburg), the assessor, the zoning administrator, Caitlyn (Habben) with ROWE Engineering and possibly Steve (Moulton),” Thorsby said. “There also has to be an appeals process. If the applicant isn’t happy with the outcome, then it’s their choice to appeal to the Planning Commission.”

The township is expected to present a first reading of a new, amended ordinance at next month’s Board of Trustees meeting.