Berkley at final stages of reviewing marijuana business applications

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 22, 2020

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BERKLEY — The end of June marked the conclusion of the period for businesses to submit applications to the city of Berkley for a marijuana business license.

The period closed June 29, and Berkley received 30 applications from businesses hoping to operate in town. It was the task of the city’s internal marijuana team, which consists of City Manager Matt Baumgarten, Public Safety Director Matt Koehn, Community Development Director Erin Schlutow and Public Policy Assistant Daniel Hill, to review the applications and grade them on a scoring matrix that was approved earlier this year.

Baumgarten said the first thing the team did with the 30 applications was a completeness check, where they went through and made sure the businesses submitted all the required documents and information. Any business notified by Berkley that they needed to turn in more information had two weeks to do so.

“We did have some that weren’t able to submit all the additional information. … We did have some that did not meet our completeness standards,” he said.

Baumgarten said the team conducted background checks and began merit-based scoring of eligible businesses. Once all the businesses have been scored, Berkley will post the results on its website Sept. 29.

The three businesses with the highest scores will begin their site plan approval process with the Planning Commission.

“Everybody within 300 feet of those subject properties will be notified and then they’ll move through a site planning process with the Planning Commission,” Baumgarten said. “If they approve the site plan, then they’ll move on to City Council for their final local governing body approval before going back to the state (to get a marijuana license).”

Baumgarten said the timetable for the businesses to move through the city’s review process varies, as it will be on each applicant to put together all of the information that’s required to go through the site plan process.

“This could take different amounts of time for all three of those applicants depending on if they have any site issues they need to remedy,” he said. “It’s fully on the applicant to determine how fast they want to move through that process at that point. But we have a specific set of standards that are very clearly laid out for what we require to appear before the Planning Commission.”

The City Council does not get involved in the process until an applicant comes before it for a licensing approval.

Recreational marijuana was approved by Michigan voters in November 2018. Berkley took its time in reviewing and discussing whether it was something it wanted in the city — officials stated numerous times in the past it was something they did not want to rush.

“It’s something that we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making sure that, one, this was something that our residents wanted, and then two, what was going to be the best fit for the city in terms of what we looked for from the scoring perspective and how they fit into the city,” Mayor Dan Terbrack said.

Terbrack said the new marijuana businesses hopefully will spur some additional development in some areas of the city.

“It’s a very process-oriented approach because … we want to make sure we’re doing this the right way and we have the highest-quality applicants,” he said. “That is ultimately what is most important. I assume that a high-quality applicant is going to run a high-quality business that we will be happy to have in our city.”