Berkley to hold town hall on recreational marijuana businesses

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 29, 2019

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BERKLEY — With the conversation about allowing recreational marijuana businesses within city limits ongoing, Berkley will hold a town hall meeting to get resident input.

Berkley’s town hall meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the Berkley Community Center, 2400 Robina Ave.

Along with various information stations, there will be a presentation from Michigan Municipal League General Counsel Christopher Johnson. Johnson will discuss updates regarding the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which was known as Proposal 1 on last November’s ballot.

City Manager Matthew Baumgarten said the crux of the town hall will be getting people’s opinions on if they want to see recreational marijuana sold in the city and, if so, where that would be.

“If the will of the people is to move forward on this, then there is a lot of local structure to put in place to either complement or fill in some of the gaps with the state’s framework,” he said.

The City Council previously introduced an ordinance in November to ban recreational marijuana businesses in Berkley. The council later made the decision to postpone any decision on the ordinance until more information could be gathered on what the state laws would entail.

Councilman Ross Gavin said any opt-out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses doesn’t have to be permanent, and the city could have opted back in at any time, which is why he supported the ordinance in the first place.

Gavin said he’s not necessarily opposed to having a marijuana business in Berkley.

“I just wanted to make sure that we had time to get a lot of information on this, solicit more resident feedback and strategically think about where best to place the businesses within the city going forward,” he said. “Based on some of our zoning laws, marijuana businesses could have come anywhere within the commercially zoned section of our city without taking into consideration the economic development impact of it.”

Where exactly a businesses could be located is one of the questions that Baumgarten is looking to glean from the town hall, as well as what’s an appropriate zoning district to allow them to exist.

Baumgarten said he’s not sure how long this conversation is going to go before Berkley makes a decision.

“It’s an open question how fast the state is working on this with the changeover and the administration, if that puts any more or less emphasis, if that lengthens or shortens the period. These are all questions that have been difficult to get answers to. That’s one of the reasons why we’re engaging with (Johnson),” he said.

“Ideally, if we’re moving forward on this, we would like to have the city’s zoning regulations in place before the state starts issuing the licenses. I don’t think we have a lot of time, given just how long it could take for the city to develop its own codes. I think it’s a decision to be made over the next couple of months, for sure, so we can start working on what we need to do here at the local level,” Baumgarten said.

Gavin said he’s looking forward to the town hall mostly as an opportunity to continue this conversation with residents.

He also is looking forward to “making sure that we understand exactly what the regulations are that the state plans to hand down and how we can ensure that we’re being conscious of potential establishment locations from a long-term city planning strategy.”