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Vote on merit system for marijuana businesses in Berkley delayed to Jan. 23

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 21, 2020

 The Berkley City Council chose to postpone a decision Jan. 6 to approve a merit point system that would be used for selecting businesses that apply for marijuana operating licenses. This section of 12 Mile Road is one area of Berkley where a marijuana business potentially could locate.

The Berkley City Council chose to postpone a decision Jan. 6 to approve a merit point system that would be used for selecting businesses that apply for marijuana operating licenses. This section of 12 Mile Road is one area of Berkley where a marijuana business potentially could locate.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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BERKLEY — The Berkley City Council once again postponed making a decision on approving a merit-based criteria for evaluating businesses for a marijuana license.

At its Jan. 6 meeting, the council reviewed new revisions to a proposed points system that is meant to help Berkley determine which businesses will be considered to settle in the city.

The 19 merits listed by Berkley total to 304 points. Only businesses that obtain 213 points would move forward in the evaluation process. Changes made since the last discussion on the topic altered some language and reevaluated how many points some merits would be worth.

Changes included decreasing the number of points for a business that would locate on 11 Mile Road, Woodward Avenue or 12 Mile Road between Coolidge Highway and Woodward from 23 to 19 points, and increasing the number of points for a proposed development that doesn’t immediately abut a residential property from seven to 15.

Council felt that the changes made between its December meeting and now have gotten it closer to where it wants to be, though some members had items that they felt needed to be addressed before they moved any further.

One such concern was clarifying language in the document about managing stakeholders and stakeholders, and how the city defines managing the business as opposed to a person who is a financial stakeholder or owner.

Mayor Dan Terbrack had concerns about the merits that awarded 17 and 16 points, respectively, as he felt they were too similar to each other. The merit that would award 17 points reads, “Managing Stakeholder is a current property owner in Berkley and has been for at least 4 months as of the application date.” The merit that would award 16 points reads, “Managing Stakeholder is a majority owner or stakeholder of an existing Berkley Business.”

Terbrack said it could be looked at that an applicant that fit both criteria was essentially receiving a “free 33 points.”

“That seems like a lot of points, which is more, essentially, than any other value we have here,” he said. “I feel like there’s a way we can kind of merge those together into one category, still recognizing everybody, still giving them those points for those. … I just worry that 33 points, while it is important, it may artificially prop up some applications.”

Council member Natalie Price wanted to see a merit that awarded 8 points increased significantly. The merit awarded points for an application that had “disclosed 100% of owners and stakeholders, including those with less than 10% stake.”

“I know that we can’t require the applicants disclose 100% of their stakeholders, because the state only requires people with 10% or more to be disclosed, but if we can incentivize it with points, I’d like to make that as high as possible,” she said. “My worst-case scenario here is a group of 11 people who all have equal ownership and not one of them need to disclose who they are, and we want the best people running these businesses, so I think incentivizing that as much as possible would be in our best interest.”

Barton Morris, a lawyer with Cannabis Legal Group in Royal Oak, took issue with the city increasing the number of points for a business that doesn’t immediately abut a residential property.

Morris stated marijuana businesses serve residents in the same manner as liquor stores, drug stores and restaurants, and he saw no reason to incentivize businesses to not locate next to residential zones. He also felt any concerns that might be had from residents — from a potential odor to a loss of property values, to an increase in crime — are unfounded.

“I don’t really see any basis to discourage these facilities being next to residential zones,” he said. “In fact, I think that it is contrary to some other criteria that has been laid out, with respect to particularly providing and encouraging development on 12 Mile and 11 Mile and Woodward, where most, if not all of those developments, would be next to residential zones.”

The council decided to delay the vote so that the system could be reworked again, as council members saw no reason to rush it through and aimed to get the wording correctly. A vote on the criteria will be considered at a special council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at City Hall.

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