Royal Oak finalizes recreational marijuana legislation

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 11, 2020

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ROYAL OAK — On July 27, the Royal Oak City Commission approved the second and final readings of its licensing and zoning ordinances that regulate recreational marijuana in the city. It also established a fee schedule for the limited number of licenses available.

The city’s moratorium on recreational marijuana expires Aug. 15. Operators will be able to apply for recreational marijuana licenses the same day.

During its July 16 meeting, the City Commission opted to allow two retail stores and two microbusinesses, with a maximum of one each allowed in areas zoned general business. All four could potentially be located in areas zoned general industrial.

The city will also allow one license for each of the seven other types of marijuana establishments besides retailers and micro businesses: Class A, Class B and Class C growers; processors; safety compliance facilities; secure transporters; and co-located establishments — all in industrial zones only.

Operators looking to secure licenses will have to fill out an application, including their history of tax delinquencies, outstanding bills, general licensing, prior businesses in Royal Oak, criminal convictions and bankruptcies, as well as plans for energy efficiency and sustainable infrastructure.

The commission included additional stipulations to the competitive process to address employee treatment, diversity and inclusion, and highly skilled workers.

City Manager Paul Brake will establish a reasonable window of time for interested operators to submit applications, according to City Attorney David Gillam. They will be charged a nonrefundable fee of $500, which will cover a cursory review by staff to ensure the application is complete. If not complete, the operator will have 10 business days to provide the information to be eligible for a formal review.

Once completed applications are filed, operators will pay an additional, nonrefundable fee of $4,500 to cover processing and review of the completed application. Staff will then begin the competitive process to determine which applicants should get priority, and Brake will order the applicants based on the city’s criteria.

“If somebody were to submit some language or plans as far as the description of it and it included a double-story mega facility at the Golden Basket, then that could be weighted far more negatively and put at the bottom of the list versus something that’s really harmonious,” Mayor Michael Fournier said.

Commissioner Sharlan Douglas said that the zoning ordinance provides that the establishment must be designed and constructed to be in line with the existing or intended character of the general vicinity and not be hazardous or disturbing to existing uses or uses reasonably anticipated in the future.

Those granted licenses will have to pay an annual fee of $5,000 for license renewal.

“The state act sets a limit of $5,000 per year,” Gillam said. “We’re not sure if $5,000 is sufficient to cover the city’s costs at this point in time. If we find the city’s costs don’t amount to that much, we can reduce the amount.”

Gillam said the city has been receiving many inquiries from operators looking to set up shop in Royal Oak.

Under the zoning ordinance, recreational marijuana facilities will not be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school. A 1,000-foot setback will be required between retailers, microbusinesses and provision centers, but no setback would be required between growers and processors.

The zoning ordinance also requires retailers and microbusinesses to provide 1.5 parking spaces for every 200 square feet of usable floor space.

Before being granted a license, various city departments will look at the applications and the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing for the special land use. All residents and property owners within 300 feet of the site will receive notice for a public hearing.

The City Commission will vote on the special land use and whether a particular applicant should be granted a license, which is issued by the city clerk, at the same meeting.

Commissioners Randy LeVasseur and Kim Gibbs cast the two no votes on both ordinances. They both said they wanted more public engagement, including town halls, and additional setbacks from parks and churches.

“We’ve been working on this for two years and have had nearly 20 public meetings on the issue,” Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said. “We’ve all been working in earnest and good faith and having really thoughtful and good conversation.”

While 55% of Michigan voters approved the regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older, 70% of Royal Oak voters approved Proposal 1 in November 2018.

Prior to the meeting, the commission heard from a large number of callers who were not in favor of recreational marijuana establishments in Royal Oak. Callers expressed concerns with crime, parking, safety, traffic, reduced property values, and locating such a business along the Woodward Avenue corridor.

Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said he has been in contact with Ferndale and Hazel Park police regarding their recreational marijuana facilities. He said Ferndale police reported no issues and Hazel Park rectified parking issues at its first location and now has two.

“I can only go by the data,” he said. “We’ve contacted departments that have had dispensaries, and they’re telling me they’re not experiencing any of these issues.”

Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Paruch said the fears expressed around the issue of recreational marijuana reminded her of the controversy around video game arcades.

“There were all kinds of rumors of criminal activity and poisoning our youth. That never happened,” she said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work. We’ve been watching what other communities have been doing. … A lot of the allegations are well intentioned but are not based in fact.”

LeVasseur said he hoped the impact of recreational marijuana facilities is not detrimental to the city and that he felt the commission failed residents in having the “appropriate outreach to them.”

“We’ve been having discussions for a long time, but it’s brand new for these folks, and it could still be helpful to have town halls and studies be made part of our public record,” he said.

He proposed instating a 150-foot buffer from all residential areas, which Gibbs supported, but the motion failed after no one else on the commission supported it.

For more information, call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000. To view the ordinances, visit romi.gov and search for “July 27 City Commission Notice and Agenda.”

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