Utica ballot proposal seeks to put 3rd marijuana location in city

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 21, 2020

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UTICA — Some residents and city leaders are concerned about the new ballot proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot that would allow a third marijuana facility to be built within feet of two marijuana locations that are already in the works in Utica.

If the ballot proposal is approved, the Marihuana Business Ordinance Amendment would revise the current Marihuana Business Ordinance to provide for two additional licenses to co-locate at one additional location. This would increase the number of physical locations of marijuana facilities from two locations to three locations for the sale of medical and recreational marijuana south of Hall Road and on the West side of Van Dyke Avenue.

Faith Terenzi, a Utica councilwoman, is concerned that many residents might not know that the ballot proposal would allow more than one marijuana facility to be within a few feet of another.

“If passed, the third location would be directly next to one of the other dispensaries. Most residents are not aware of the ballot proposal,” said Terenzi.

She said that, although she is not opposed to another location, having all three so close to each other is a little different.

“As I stated at the City Council meeting in August, I think we should wait a year and see how it goes with the first two locations. We want to do our due diligence and see if, has there been an increase in crime? Is Heritage Park still a family-friendly park, and how is the traffic on Van Dyke and River Vista? These are just a few of the factors that need to be looked at before issuing a third license,” she said.

Terenzi said that the current ordinance is different than the one that is being proposed; the current ordinance set a requirement for the buildings to be at least several hundred feet away from each other. She took it upon herself to measure that proposed locations for the ones that would be close together.

“If this ordinance amendment passes, it will override our current ordinance that has a 700-foot buffer between locations. There will be just 105 feet between the first awarded location at the corner of River Vista and Van Dyke, and the ordinance amendment-change location also at the corner of River Vista and Van Dyke. So in other words, there will be two locations on one corner. We do not need two locations on the same corner,” she said.

Terenzi said she hopes to push back against passing the ordinance this November.

“I believe that the Marathon property will be sold and cleaned up without the ordinance amendment vote passing,” she said.

The ballot proposal language calls the amendment, “The Citizen Revised Marihuana Business Ordinance to Clean Contaminated Property in the City of Utica.” The ordinance amendment was brought to the council as a petition in August; the council had the choice to either adopt the ordinance as presented or put it on the November ballot. The council voted unanimously to put it on the ballot.

She said she is worried about the future of marijuana in Utica with how fast and close the locations are being proposed.

“We do not want to be known as ‘Hemp City.’ I believe that having two locations on any one corner would hurt the ‘hometown’ image that Utica has had for years. We are a city of 4,000 people; we do not need three marijuana dispensaries,” she said.

Resident John Myroniuk said that he is concerned.

“As a long-time city of Utica resident, I am troubled by the recent initiative to increase the number of marijuana licenses within the city limits under the pretense that it will benefit the city, clean up the city and provide adequate funding back to the city,” he said.

Myroniuk said he has spoken with other residents who share similar concerns.

“They also find it appalling to have this attempt be made and turn our city into something no one here wants in the first place. However, people have been led to believe this is a very lucrative option for local communities. Again, not true. If so, there are many openings at Lakeside Mall with established parking,” he said.

He said he questioned why other cities have had the chance for additional dollars in tax revenues from marijuana businesses and haven’t taken it.

“Furthermore, having two establishments of this nature near Heritage Park, Trinity Lutheran Church and School, plus St. Lawrence Parish and school is quite disturbing in itself. Also, taking advantage of smaller cities like Hazel Park, Ferndale and Center Line is where the folks are going, because they can’t get into any other cities at this time,” he said.

He said he hopes residents make the choice they think is best for Utica’s future.

“I trust the residents of the city of Utica, do the right thing and vote no. … This affects all of us, not just the south end of the city,” said Myroniuk.

The Shelby-Utica News was unable to contact someone affiliated with the petition before press time.

For more information on the ballot proposal, call the city at (586) 739-1600.