Shelby Township sets new medical marijuana grow, facility rules

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 9, 2021

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Shelby Township has put in place a new set of ordinances in hopes to better regulate how marijuana grow operations and caregivers operate within the township.

When medical marijuana became legal, Shelby Township began receiving many resident complaints about odor, noise, power outages and fires.

Last April, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that municipalities can create ordinances that rezone where caregivers can legally grow medical marijuana.

Shelby Township can now force grow operations to move out of residential neighborhoods and into industrial zones. Township Attorney Rob Huth helped create the ordinances.

The board’s process to adopt the new ordinances began July 21, 2020, as the township imposed a moratorium to halt new permits for structural modifications to residential properties to facilitate the cultivation of marijuana.

This moratorium took place while the township crafted new ordinances after a Michigan Supreme Court decision in the case of DeRuiter v. Byron Township allowed municipalities to enact zoning regulations to govern the cultivation of medical marijuana by personal caregivers.

“In the case, they said, ‘Look, municipalities, if you want to take some action against these residential grow operations, give those folks someplace else to grow that is consistent with the what the voters passed in 2008,’” said Huth.

Township Board members, employees, public safety professionals and residents collaborated to outline the community’s new guidelines for medical marijuana caregivers and grow operations, which township Supervisor Rick Stathakis went over during the Board of Trustees meeting Jan. 19.

Huth said the problem stemmed from the initiative that voters passed in 2008, which permitted caregiver grow operations in residential neighborhoods. If homeowners jumped through hoops, he said, they could have up to 72 plants.

The township Dec. 3 formally adopted its ordinances governing zoning requirements for patient-caregiver operations and restrictions on marijuana cultivation for qualified patients and individuals over the age of 21 wishing to grow personal-use marijuana within a residence.

The new ordinances empower the township’s Building Department and Fire Department to direct new potential patient caregivers to industrially zoned properties, as they can no longer grant permits for electrical upgrades that allow for more than the standard 200 amps needed at residential properties.

“These buildings are better ventilated for a higher-end grower in an industrial location as opposed to a residential house, but most importantly, it gets the operation out and away from our residential homes, and it has been a win in that regard,” Huth said.

Huth said the township has already had to deny requests from growers who were looking for permits for electrical upgrades.

“We’ve already experienced progress as we’ve denied people coming to the Building Department seeking these enhancements to the electrical system. With Building Director Tim Wood overseeing it, the ordinances are working,” Huth said.

Stathakis said they know that there are state laws that allow these activities, and there is nothing they can do about that; however, there is still something they can do.

“What we can and will do is make sure those activities do not infringe on the rights and property of our neighbors. Just because someone in your neighborhood chooses to engage in this nonsense, it should not make your life more difficult or your home less desirable,” Stathakis said.

In addition to the larger grow sites, the ordinances ensure that personal grow sites, which are limited to 12 plants, are not conflicting with neighboring properties. Under the ordinances, qualified patients or residents older than 21 cannot dedicate more than 100 square feet of property to growing marijuana. Regulations for qualified patients also include restrictions on lighting and other resources and activities associated with marijuana cultivation.

The Building Department reportedly is now receiving fewer inquiries to operate facilities in residential areas since the regulations have been enacted. So far, 10 patient-care operations reportedly have been shut down in residential areas as the result of the moratorium and new ordinances.

 Stathakis said that, with the help of other trustees and residents’ input, the new ordinances were possible.

“I first want to thank Trustees Lisa Casali and John Vermeulen for their dedication and commitment to keeping marijuana grow operations out of our neighborhoods,” Stathakis said. “And I want to thank all the residents. You were able to mobilize. Because when these people creating all this nonsense understand it’s not just a Board of Trustees, it means a lot.”

For more information on the new ordinances, call the township at (586) 731-5100.