FerndaleJuly 18, 2012
Ferndale sets limits on 'novelty shops' looking to operate in city
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
FERNDALE — The city is now placing additional restrictions on stores that sell legal but controversial smoking products and are seeking to open for business in Ferndale.
At its July 9 meeting, the Ferndale City Council adopted an ordinance permitting novelty shops, also known as head shops, to operate in the city as long as they meet certain dimensional restrictions. The council voted 4-1 in favor of the ordinance with Councilwoman Melanie Piana casting the lone dissenting vote. With its decision, the council also went against the recommendation of the Planning Commission, which had advised that the council take no action on the issue because they felt that Ferndale’s existing ordinances already provide sufficient safeguards for the city.
According to Community and Economic Development Director Derek Delacourt, the new ordinance both defines novelty shops within the city and establishes criteria for managing them. The controversy over these businesses stems from the fact that they provide smoking equipment, products and materials — including pipes, bongs, clips, scales, sifters, rolling papers and spoons — that may be utilized as paraphernalia for using and distributing illegal drugs like marijuana.
“Their primary function is to sell tobacco-related smoking devices,” Delacourt told the council. “They are legal, but they certainly carry a certain (negative) connotation with them, and there was certainly some concern when they were first being proposed within the commercial business district.”
Delacourt explained that although Ferndale currently has some businesses that sell these items, none of them are defined as novelty shops because smoking products are not considered their “primary use.” However, about a year ago, the city received two zoning requests from novelty shop owners who hoped to locate in Ferndale. Officials at that time were unsure of their legal options in regulating these businesses, and much of the confusion stemmed from how the products they sell relate to Michigan’s medical marijuana law.
In response, Delacourt said, the council adopted a moratorium prohibiting novelty shops from opening in the city until officials could look at the issue more closely. The Planning Commission later studied it at length and determined that the best course of action for the city was not to adopt any additional regulations.
As Delacourt put it, although the commission had a difficult time reaching a consensus, “They ultimately decided that the market would dictate this and prevent the proliferation of these businesses, and that this wasn’t something they needed to be concerned with. … They felt that the ordinances we already have in place for commercial zoning and retail uses are thorough enough to protect us against the downsides associated with any general retail use.”
Still, during this process, the Planning Commission also asked city staff to draft an ordinance that included additional dimensional limitations on novelty shops, which are the same as those for adult businesses in the city. These restrictions state that novelty shops are not permitted within a 500-foot radius of a school, library, daycare center, playground or place of worship, nor are they permitted within a 1,000-foot radius of another novelty shop.
Most members of council felt that this was an agreeable compromise on the issue. Councilman Dan Martin pointed out that even with these new regulations in place, there is still a considerable amount of retail space available for these businesses along major roads, such as Nine Mile, Woodward, Livernois, Hilton and Eight Mile.
“I don’t want to stop any of these businesses from opening,” he said. “I don’t have a problem if one of them comes to Ferndale … and I certainly don’t want to (negatively) impact any businesses that are selling these products today. I just don’t have 100 percent faith in the pure market to govern this, and that’s where I think a little bit of guidance from council on this matter would help.”
Councilman Scott Galloway agreed. “Not too long ago, I think the city of Ferndale’s central business district was defined by wig shops and nail salons,” he said. “We’re the only community that I know whose main street has two CVS’s, a Rite Aid, two 7-Elevens and two Taco Bells. … Why did the Planning Commission think that the market, which doesn’t seem to be too good at weeding those multiple uses out, is somehow going to address head shops?”
But Piana, who serves as council liaison to the Planning Commission, favored the commission’s recommendation, citing a desire not to enforce too many restrictions on local businesses.
“I fall in the camp of those who feel that the appropriate protections are already in place right now,” she said. “We do have businesses that are legally selling items that would be sold in a novelty shop, but the proliferation of (novelty shops) is zero. That may change to one or two, but I think that the review process that we have in place … from our city staff and the DDA, can help landlords deal with these types of applicants, as well as make sure that they are following appropriate laws.”
Some audience members were confused about what exactly a novelty shop entails. Resident Kathryn Hershberger noted that the definition must have changed significantly over the years.
“When I was a kid, I knew what was sold in a novelty shop because my parents owned one at the time,” she recalled. “We sold penny candy; we sold sodas and milkshakes; we sold school supplies and kites. But I have no idea what a novelty shop sells today, and I don’t know what kind of business we’re really talking about here when we’re mentioning novelty shops and medical marijuana in the same paragraph.”
The new definition was also a cause for concern among officials from the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority. DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius pointed out that the DDA Board has had many discussions on the issue and is adamantly opposed to allowing novelty shops to establish a major retail presence in the downtown area.
“Even though the market does generally handle things in terms of what types of businesses and how many businesses … what I’ve seen happening from these businesses when they come in is that they’re willing to pay any dollar to be in an area that will attract more people. We didn’t want that to define the downtown district (in Ferndale). We’re a very open and diverse area … but at the same time, we’re still a community and a family, and we want to protect those within the community.”
Mayor Dave Coulter echoed those sentiments. “I do have some concerns about an over-proliferation of these sorts of businesses,” he said, “and I do like the idea of modeling an ordinance similar to the one for (adult businesses). I like that because I know these are legal businesses, and I know this is not an illegal activity — but I think that Ferndale has effectively balanced its nightlife with its community orientation. We are a place where people go to play and also to raise their kids, and I think that always requires us to strike the right balance between the two.”
- Last 7 Days
- Last 30 Days
- Missing woman found dead - West Bloomfield
- BHS Orchestra selected to perform at Carnegie Hall - Berkley
- All in the family - Clinton Township
- Christmas Wonderfest brings holiday wonder to Novi - Metro Detroit
- Police seek help in fatal hit-and-run - Clinton Township
- Premature birth rates decline in Michigan for sixth year - Metro Detroit
- Looking Back: 1920s Coolidge Highway - Berkley
- Shelby boy battles rare form of cancer - Shelby Township
- Lions Thanksgiving halftime show spotlights WLC band, cheer teams - Walled Lake
- Mom, man she met online to stand trial on child sex charge - Warren
- Macomb Home Depot creates college scholarship in honor of deceased employee - Macomb Township
- East Detroit student dies following pool accident - Eastpointe
- Attorney dies in Harper Avenue crash - St. Clair Shores
- CVHS students to stage production of ‘Hairspray’ - Clinton Township
- Sterling woman hurt in shooting - Sterling Heights
- Christmas comes to the Shores - St. Clair Shores
- County board considers regional water authority proposal - Macomb County
- Shelby boy battles rare form of cancer
- Lions Thanksgiving halftime show spotlights WLC band, cheer teams
- BHS Orchestra selected to perform at Carnegie Hall
- Macomb Home Depot creates college scholarship in honor of deceased employee
- Child prodigy becomes youngest artist exhibited at Park West Gallery
- All in the family
- Christmas Wonderfest brings holiday wonder to Novi