Road funding, marijuana dispensaries big issues in Clinton Township for 2019

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published January 7, 2019

File photo


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The year 2019 might look similar to 2018, as officials in Clinton Township will likely again grapple with two major initiatives: road rehabilitation and “opting in” to marijuana dispensaries.

That’s the prognostication being wagered by Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon, who said in late December that he expects to elaborate further during his annual State of the Township address this month.

He said some of his colleagues’ plans to pressure state lawmakers regarding a proper local cut of road funding is “not gonna happen.” He intends to continue to demonstrate how the county — which is responsible for road-related efforts in the township, due to Act 51 — can work with the township to further improve infrastructure.

“That’s my whole reason to do projects with the county,” he said. “We have more control when there’s more money in the pot.”

In the August election, 11,455 residents — or 54.3 percent of voters — voted against a road proposition.

If approved, the millage would have generated approximately $5.6 million annually.

Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem said the board was split over the road millage.

Roads are “absolutely” the biggest issue for constituents, he said, adding that it’s a problem that runs in cycles, but gains notice in periods of physical peril — such as during the winter aftermath, when roads tend to have taken a beating and people feel it in their vehicles.

He said the county and state need to recognize that not all communities are the same, including Clinton Township. He said that while road condition studies are a pragmatic approach, applying financial burdens to residents for road fixes is a lack of a good return from Lansing.

Redevelopment comes first, he emphasized, rather than building further out.

“We have a structural funding problem created by Lansing,” he said. “They do not allocate a fair return of the transportation dollars that we send up there. The funding formula was created prior to the opening of Mackinac Bridge, and hasn’t significantly changed.”


A wait-and-see for marijuana
This past November, 55.89 percent — or 2.35 million Michiganders — approved Proposal 1, which initiated law to authorize use and cultivation of marijuana for individuals 21 and older. In Macomb County, 54.9 percent of registered voters approved the measure, and in Clinton Township, the proposal was approved by more than 4,000 votes.

Cannon believes “opting in” would likely encompass both medical and recreational marijuana, adding that arguments made on behalf of youths, and not having dispensaries on every corner, is a viable one.

“To allow every corner to have a dispensary doesn’t keep kids safe,” he said. “With tobacco, vaping and alcohol, it’s just one more item to add to the list.”

When the process began with medical marijuana about 1 1/2 years ago, and a committee was established to dissect the “nature of the beast,” Cannon said some residents would approve, while others wouldn’t.

Now, his point remains the same.

“I try to do what’s best for the community,” he said. “Everybody’s not going to agree whatever which way you go. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Township Clerk Kim Meltzer said she’s “a proponent of economic development by policing dispensaries and grow operations in the township very carefully,” adding that economic development doesn’t necessarily come from the tax base, but rather from the fact that many people want to utilize a regulated product and ensure that people with medicinal purposes can get the help they need.

She’s aware that people will want to use recreationally too, but she’s unsure of the demand.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, based on the 2008 referendum (for medical marijuana legalization),” she said. “It could take two-thirds of the state Legislature to vote to approve an override of the referendum. That’s just another tangent to consider.”

But after 10 years of medicinal marijuana being available and demand being evident, she said the bigger issue is related to tax revenue; more specifically, how revenue sharing has helped balance state budgets while leaving local communities with the short end of the stick — like for road funding or other measures that require bonds or millages for extra money.

And even though many county communities have recently “opted out” for the time being, she said Clinton Township should look at the precincts that supported the legalization measures and allow placement in those vicinities.

“Bringing those people into Clinton Township to access that product would also have them look at other areas in Clinton Township, like gas stations and convenience stores (that) could benefit,” she said.

Gieleghem noted that recreation regulations are in their infancy, saying there’s “far too much uncertainty to be able to move forward in any way on opting in on recreational marijuana.”

A big concern for him is a lack of identifying objective facts and information of how suburban communities are impacted. He said Colorado is a good example of utilizing diverse opinions and letting local communities see how their own residents would be affected.

As to Meltzer’s suggestion of possibly identifying precincts interested in housing dispensaries, Gieleghem said that right now, there is a “larger responsibility to build in necessary protections.”

“Is marijuana an economic development issue that will provide a revenue stream to local communities, that is able to help us solve these structural issues?” he said. “Or does marijuana come with huge social costs, such as increased dropout rates, homelessness, teen drug use, addiction, gateway substance abuse, increased crime and an increase of people driving under the influence?”

There is no timeline for when or if the township will  further address marijuana.