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Berkley approves zoning, licensing marijuana ordinances

Merit point system for business applications being drafted

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 27, 2019

BERKLEY — The Berkley City Council has approved all necessary ordinances for marijuana businesses to begin applying to open in the city in 2020.

At its Dec. 16 meeting, the council approved two sets of ordinance amendments relating to marijuana businesses in its city code — one that deals with the zoning requirements and the second that centers on the licensing regulations and operational standards for businesses.

Berkley had been working on its ordinances for the better part of a year after Michigan residents voted to allow recreational marijuana in 2018. Mayor Dan Terbrack told the Woodward Talk that he’s happy with the language that was passed by council.

“My biggest concern with the language was making sure that the city was in a strong position,” he said. “One thing we’ve at least heard is that there are challenges that are going to come from folks who’ve maybe applied and don’t get a license. So our goal was to just make sure that (the language) we had not only was defensible in court, but protecting the city to make sure that we have the type of businesses that we are trying to (bring in). If we’re going to allow them in Berkley, we want to make sure it’s the right type of business that fits in with Berkley and fits our ideals of the community.”

With the two ordinances in the rear view, the council and city now will focus on crafting a merit point system to score the applications submitted by marijuana businesses.

Daniel Hill, the administrative assistant to the city manager, presented an overview of the merit system’s latest draft to the council at the meeting.

As of now, businesses can receive up to 304 points for an application, though only ones that have obtained 213 points will be considered further by Berkley.

The general requirements for an application to be considered by the city are that the application must be complete; the proposed location has to be more than 1,000 feet from a school; the cannabis business complies with existing zoning; the cannabis business meets off-street parking requirements; the cannabis business has an odor-control system; and all stakeholders are clear of detrimental acts on their record.

The draft contains 19 merits that businesses can be judged on. They include 25 points for applications that propose the redevelopment of a vacant or underused building or property, which Hill referred to as something that was important to City Council.

Other merits include 23 points for a business if it’s located on 11 Mile Road, Woodward Avenue or 12 Mile Road between Coolidge and Woodward, as the goal is to incentivize investment in commercial property outside of the Downtown Development Authority district; seven points if the proposed development does not immediately abut a residential property to encourage developments to have some distance from nearby homes; and 20 points if a proposed development demonstrates and provides physical improvements to the property or other areas contiguous to the property.

The physical improvements merit scoring includes sub scores, with five points administered each for a proposal with noninvasive trees, public art, green space and public areas such as alleyways, parking areas and sidewalks.

Councilman Steve Baker expressed concern about the number of points going to a business if it’s located on 11 Mile Road, Woodward Avenue or 12 Mile Road between Coolidge and Woodward, as he felt it punishes businesses that want to be in the centralized downtown.

“I think that it is an important criteria, but I wouldn’t want to penalize somebody for trying to go into the downtown area in a well-established building,” he said. “A lot of those points wouldn’t appear, so I’m encouraging to see that number come down a bit.”

Baker also felt that seven points for a business that does not immediately abut a residential property was too low and almost makes it look like an afterthought.

“If we’re trying to work all the angles here to find a spot that’s away from residents, (it) should be a bit more encouraged,” he said. “I’m glad that it’s on the list, but … what optics is that, that it’s the very last item on our list?”

Terbrack said at the meeting that the city gets a few opportunities to help spur development in areas that otherwise wouldn’t be the first place most people go in Berkley. His opinion is that this endeavor could be used as a development tool for those areas that need development but don’t have as many built-in advantages as some other areas in the city.

“I do not want to see that drop down to the bottom of the list and then we may find ourselves with three dispensaries in a couple blocks ... in our downtown area,” he said. “I don’t think that’s going to have the lasting impact, or at least potential, on our community that we could have here.”

According to the city, the merit system is being reworked for another council discussion session. For residents interested in reviewing the materials themselves, they can be found on the city’s website at www.berkleymich.org.