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Huntington Woods opts out of recreational marijuana businesses

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 7, 2019

HUNTINGTON WOODS — A couple of weeks after Pleasant Ridge passed its own ordinance, Huntington Woods also is looking to bar recreational marijuana establishments from setting up shop in the city.

At its April 23 meeting, the City Commission held the first reading of an ordinance that would opt out Huntington Woods from allowing recreational marijuana businesses to operate in town. All commissioners present and the mayor voted for the ordinance, a 4-0 vote.

In December, the commission first discussed the possibility of businesses in Huntington Woods. It was decided then that it would refer the conversation back to the Planning Commission and let it review and make a recommendation.

“Planning Commission discussed it in March, and their recommendation to the City Commission was that the city do opt out of providing recreational marijuana facilities within Huntington Woods,” City Manager Amy Sullivan said.

According to the meeting’s minutes, the city’s zoning administrator and code enforcement officer, Hank Berry, said it was the staff’s and city attorney’s suggestion to opt out for the time being to see what happens in other communities and if any legal challenges play out. He also said the lack of retail space that isn’t directly attached to or bordering residential or recreational property is potentially problematic.

Commissioner Joe Rozell said that while there’s no question in his mind the voters of Huntington Woods supported the use of marijuana from last year’s Proposal 1 vote, what wasn’t voted on was whether or not residents wanted it sold in the community.

At the initial December meeting, Rozell was the only commissioner who voted against sending the issue to the Planning Commission, as he advocated then to not allow recreational marijuana businesses.

“I’m glad to see after several months it is back and being recommended that that’s what occur,” he said. “If you think about it, the commercial property, the majority of commercial property in the city, abuts parks. The florist, the collision shop, the dry cleaners, the Rite Aid store — all abut parks where our young folks congregate, and I do not think that it should be sold next to your city parks. Other than the Woodward property, every other commercial parcel, with very, very limited exceptions, abuts a city park. So I think this is the right decision.”

Rozell said anyone who wants to obtain marijuana should be able to look in nearby cities.

“I think there’s a lot that needs to be worked out at the state level, and were we to opt in, I think the financial burden after the state scraped off all of the money they possibly could, what would be left for the opt-in cities for covering the costs of administering this would have been so minimal that I think it also would have placed a financial burden on our city,” he said.

Commissioner Michelle Elder also agreed with the Planning Commission’s recommendation, citing that details on how everything will work still need to be figured out, as well as limited space in the city.

“With the limited space that we have, I don’t think that that’s the right use, the type of land use that we should be promoting,” she said. “There’s better options out there for our community. And I do also share the concern about outside buyers coming into our communities, and a lot of the residential homes are right behind some of the retail spaces that could be used for that kind of sale.”

Elder did point out that Huntington Woods could always opt into allowing recreational marijuana businesses, if that’s what the commission and the city choose to do.

“In the future, as we learn about how the state law is being implemented, you do have that opportunity to opt back in, and maybe that’s something that we could look at in the future if that is something that the community wants,” she said.

The commission still needs to hold a second reading on the ordinance for it to officially pass, which was scheduled to be held at its May 7 meeting. That occurred after the Woodward Talk went to press.