Planning Commission Denies New Marijuana Facility in Lapeer Amid Odor Concerns

January 14th, 2024 Legislation & Policy Updates
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Residents and officials in Lapeer, Michigan, have been expressing their concerns over the persistent marijuana odor emanating from cultivation facilities located on Saginaw Street at the former Lapeer Grain Company property and on S. Court Street, just south of the railroad tracks. This ongoing issue has prompted Lapeer officials to plan discussions with the operators of these grow facilities in an effort to find a resolution.

The Lapeer Planning Commission, responding to these complaints, has shown hesitancy in permitting further expansion of marijuana grow facilities in the area. In a recent meeting, the commission voted 5-3 against granting a special land use permit to a Livonia businessman who intended to establish an 11,400-square-foot organic medical marijuana cultivation site at 39 W. Genesee St. This site, once home to Thick's Glass and currently flanked by the Exclusive-brand marijuana dispensary and Arnold's Auto Wash, was proposed by Richard Swain for the development of the new facility.

Swain, accompanied by architects and engineers, presented plans for a new building equipped with advanced carbon-based air filtration systems, designed to purify the air within sealed rooms before its external release. Swain emphasized his commitment to adhering to city standards and expressed concern over being unfairly targeted, especially given the existing nearby facilities with known odor issues.

However, Planning Commissioner Doug Roberts pointed out that previous assurances from other growers about odor control had proven unreliable. Jennell RaCosta, the Planning Commission Chairwoman, and Commissioner Joshua Atwood voiced their preference for relocating such operations to industrial parks, distant from residential and other business areas. The decision to deny Swain's permit was supported by Commissioners Anne Schenck, Joshua Atwood, Jennell RaCosta, Marty Johnson, and Doug Roberts, while Commissioners Catherine Bostick, Debbie Marquardt, and Austin Kelly opposed it. Lapeer City Manager and Planning Commissioner Mike Womack was not present for the vote.

Further addressing these concerns, the Planning Commission has proposed that the Lapeer City Commission consider amending local marijuana regulations. This includes a suggestion that all marijuana cultivation facilities should require special land use approval, and a reevaluation of zoning ordinances to limit such facilities to areas zoned for heavy industrial use. This recommendation aligns with Michigan's marijuana laws, which stipulate that cultivation facilities be situated in industrially zoned areas. However, in Lapeer, the blending of marijuana businesses with other commercial and industrial operations, particularly along East Genesee Street and Imlay City Road, has complicated the issue.

Special land use permits are critical for local authorities to enforce regulations, such as controlling odors, and can be revoked if businesses fail to comply. Currently, Lapeer hosts six marijuana cultivation facilities, some of which have faced odor control issues. These facilities, established in older buildings, were not subjected to the special land use review, which limits the city's authority to demand modifications for odor mitigation.

Lapeer City Manager Mike Womack is expected to propose a six-month moratorium on new marijuana business applications in Lapeer during a city commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 16th. This pause is intended to allow for a thorough review of zoning and enforcement policies related to marijuana cultivation facilities, aiming to address the concerns of local residents and maintain community standards.

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