Addressing Odor Concerns: Lapeer's Marijuana Facility Dilemma

December 17th, 2023 Business & Industry Ryan Spegal
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In Lapeer, Michigan, a debate is intensifying over the proliferation of marijuana facilities in the city. Currently, Lapeer hosts six licensed dispensaries offering both medical and recreational marijuana to those 21 and older. However, there is no cap on the number of marijuana cultivation and processing facilities in the city, which has led to growing concerns among local residents and officials.

The Lapeer Planning Commission recently chose to postpone a decision on a special land use application by a Livonia entrepreneur aiming to construct an 11,480-square-foot recreational marijuana cultivation facility on W. Genesee Street. The location's suitability for a major commercial corridor and the applicant's ability to control marijuana odors were key points of contention.

Commissioner Anne Schenck suggested that the Commission should consider advising the Lapeer City Commission to limit the number of grow facilities in the area, highlighting the issue's impact on local residents. The City Commission holds the authority to establish such limits and regulations.

The decision to allow up to six recreational dispensaries followed Michigan's 2018 referendum, but no restrictions were placed on cultivation and processing operations. Currently, approximately ten facilities grow both medical and recreational marijuana, with around half a dozen processing facilities in Lapeer.

Local concerns were voiced during the meeting's public comment period. Resident Jose Gonzales noted the high concentration of marijuana facilities along Imlay City Road, expressing surprise at the city's direction. Lapeer attorney Tim Denney also raised concerns about odor issues, suggesting the city was becoming overwhelmed by marijuana fumes.

Richard Swaine, the applicant for the new grow facility, assured that his proposed building would adhere to all regulations. However, his plans have been delayed due to complications in securing a utility easement, causing his permit and site plan applications to expire.

Jennell RaCosta, Chairwoman of the Lapeer Planning Commission, noted that previous operators also promised odor control, yet the issue persists. The Commission deferred the special land use request for further review and to allow Swaine to provide evidence of effective odor mitigation.

City Manager Mike Womack acknowledged the odor complaints, particularly from three grow facilities, and is working with various city departments to address the issue. He emphasized that a resolution would likely involve ordinance adjustments.

The Lapeer Planning Commission meets monthly, and the situation remains a significant topic for local governance and community discussion.

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