Addressing Community Concerns: Lapeer Imposes Moratorium on Marijuana Businesses

January 21st, 2024 Legislation & Policy Updates
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Lapeer, Michigan, has recently imposed a six-month moratorium on new marijuana business applications. This decision, effective immediately, was made during the City Commission meeting on Tuesday, following a recommendation by City Manager Mike Womack. The pause is intended to allow time for revising local ordinances concerning zoning and the enforcement of violations.

In 2018, Lapeer authorized six marijuana dispensaries for adults 21 and older to purchase both medical and recreational marijuana products. However, the city did not set a limit on the number of marijuana cultivation and processing businesses, leading to the current operation of seven such facilities.

The move comes in response to persistent complaints from residents, neighboring businesses, and visitors about the pervasive marijuana odor emanating from several grow facilities, notably the SDRK Grow LLC facility, previously the Lapeer Grain Co. site.

These concerns were echoed by the Lapeer Planning Commission, which recently urged the City Commission to reassess its ordinances. They highlighted the problematic location of marijuana businesses, particularly their proximity to other commercial entities. Most of these businesses are concentrated east of Court Street on Genesee Street/Imlay City Road and on Saginaw and Court streets south of the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

The idea of capping the number of cultivation operations in Lapeer was raised at the City Commission meeting. Commissioner Stefan Brady suggested aligning the number of grow facilities with the number of dispensaries, proposing a limit of six. This suggestion is yet to be formally considered or adopted.

In the meantime, efforts to address the odor issue are underway. Andy Shango, owner of the SDRK grow facility, is actively working on solutions. His facility, which received its permanent occupancy permit last fall, is collaborating with Kapala Heating & Air Conditioning to repair air leaks in large filtration equipment outside its two 6,000-square-foot grow operations. Shango has invested over $8 million in the site, including building renovations and equipment, and plans to spend approximately $1 million on a backup generator system. He emphasizes his commitment to being a responsible community member and resolving the odor issue.

The City has yet to issue citations for the odor problem, preferring to give businesses the opportunity to address the issue voluntarily. City Manager Womack highlighted the importance of working collaboratively with businesses to find solutions rather than rushing to punitive measures. However, he noted that some marijuana businesses might not be taking necessary steps to control the odor, and the City is prepared to enforce laws if required.

Lapeer's ordinances, particularly Ordinance 69.5, stipulate that operations should not cause nuisances like odors detectable beyond property boundaries. The definition of a nuisance in the zoning ordinance covers a range of disturbances, including odors, and the City is obligated to ensure compliance.

Operation of an authorized establishment shall not, either directly or indirectly, cause or create any noise, dust, vibration, glare, fumes or odors constituting a nuisance and also detectable to human senses beyond the boundaries of the property on which the facility is operated.

This development reflects Lapeer's ongoing efforts to balance the growth of its marijuana industry with community standards and concerns.

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