ZBA denies variance for pot-growing facility

FLINT TWP. — After a public hearing on Monday, the township Zoning Board of Appeals denied a request for a variance from Eden II. LLC to locate a medical marihuana growing facility less than the required distance from residential property.

A township ordinance prohibits such facilities from being located within 1,500 feet of residential property. Eden’s proposed location at 4259-4299 Continental Drive in the Linden Creek Parkway is within 1,300 feet of the nearest residential property lines.

Seven affected homes are located at 4397 S. Linden, 4379 S. Linden, 4373 S. Linden, 4363 S. Linden, 4355 S. Linden, 4345 S. Linden and 4335 S. Linden.

The grow facility itself, to be built on the currently vacant 10.45-acre parcel, would be set back much further than 1,500 feet, said Denise A. Pollicella, of Cannabis Attorneys of Michigan, who represented petitioner Mark Eden. The burden was on Eden to prove hardship.

Pollicella gave a comprehensive presentation about current state medical marihuana laws and regulations. There would be no traffic, no noise, light or odors from the facility, she said.

“We are choosing to do it in a secluded private industrial location, a more controlled environment. … Before today’s meeting, no one would know it was there.”

She also noted that Michigan medical marihuana laws permit users in residential areas to grow up to 72 plants of their own.

Pollicella said Eden tentatively plans to lease space in the facility to three to four growers who are required by law to operate in separate, locked spaces.

ZBA members raised questions about security and who would monitor the facility to ensure that the law is being met.

Tracey Tucker, township building inspector, said her division has no authority to do so but that she has contacted the Flint Area Narcotics Group (FANG) to investigate when similar legitimacy questions were raised about other grow houses in the township.

Eden did not attend the meeting and Pollicella did not have answers for some of the board’s questions about proposed grow house operations. She said Eden had not yet developed a building plan which is a separate issue from the zoning requirements.

ZBA Chairman Roger Powell said he would have liked to hear directly from the person who will be running the facility.

“I would be more comfortable with him here to answer questions,” he said. “Otherwise, we are just spinning in the wind.”

ZBA members also asked questions about patients coming and going and/or transportation of the finished product to patients.

Pollicella said that most medical users prefer having supplies delivered instead of picking them up but said it was not out of the question that some might visit the facility to meet with their provider.

But the facility is not a retail dispensary and would not be open to the public.

Several nearby residents asked questions and voiced objections to the facility.

One nearby business owner raised concerns about transactions taking place in the parking lot and loiterers.

Pollicella said that usually is not a problem and that state law prohibits use on neighboring private property.

ZBA member Frank Kasle asked Pollicella about the status of federal laws on medical marihuana. She said now that 26 states have laws on the books allowing medical marihuana use, the federal government tends to leave oversight up to states unless laws are being broken. But marihuana use still is illegal at the federal level.

A proposed state law with clearer regulations has passed the Michigan house but is stuck in the senate.

That law would create a state license similar to liquor licensing, she said.

Pollicella said Flint Township has the most restrictive marijuana zoning ordinance in the state compared to setbacks usually stipulated at 500 to 1,000 feet. She suggested consulting officials in the cities of Flint or Burton which have been licensing cultivation facilities for six years without security problems.

A ZBA member asked Pollicella why Eden could not simply divide the land to make the portion where the grow facility would be located in compliance with the setback ordinance,

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