Royal Oak Planning Commission recommends denying marijuana business near school

Members of the public pack the rooms of Royal Oak City Hall for a public hearing into a proposed marijuana facility within 100 feet of the Oakland Schools Southeast Technical Campus.

A rendering shows the proposed marijuana retail development at 420 E. Harrison Ave. near Lincoln Avenue and Main Street. On February 8, the Royal Oak Planning Commission recommended that the City Commission approve the special land use and site plan for the project.

Rendering courtesy of Stucky Vitale Architects

    A render shows the proposed marijuana grower, processor and retailer at 5130 Meijer Drive near Coolidge Highway and 14 Mile Road.  On February 8, the Royal Oak Planning Commission recommended that the City Commission deny the special land use and site plan.

A render shows the proposed marijuana grower, processor and retailer at 5130 Meijer Drive near Coolidge Highway and 14 Mile Road. On February 8, the Royal Oak Planning Commission recommended that the City Commission deny the special land use and site plan.

Rendering provided by Krieger Klatt Architects

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ROYAL OAK — On February 8, the Royal Oak Planning Commission held public hearings into special land use and site plans for two proposed marijuana facilities selected from more than 30 applicants by the City Manager’s office.

The Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 to recommend rejection of the Gatsby Cannabis Co. proposal and 3 to 1 to recommend approval of the Royal Treatment proposal. The Royal Oak City Commission will have the final say on both points.

Two planning commissioners — Eric Klooster and Woody Gontina — were absent from the meeting.

Proposal from Gatsby Cannabis Co.
Members of the public packed rooms at Royal Oak City Hall over the first proposal after Oakland Schools made their opposition to the Gatsby Cannabis Co.’s proximity to the Schools Tech Campus widely known. Oakland-Southeast.

The plan calls for an 8,400 square foot growing area, a 1,400 square foot processing area and a 1,600 square foot retail space. The petitioners are proposing a complete exterior upgrade, substantial interior improvements and a significant number of environmentally sustainable features at the Karl Heinz Auto Center site, 5130 Meijer Drive.

In a letter, Oakland Schools Superintendent Wanda Cook-Robinson wrote, “If approved, Gatsby Cannabis Co. may operate within yards of our OSTC-SE. Michigan law prohibits a marijuana establishment from operating within 1,000 feet of a pre-existing public or private school.

During the meeting, Oakland Schools Legal Counsel Lara Kapalla-Bondi said the distance from the proposed marijuana business was 88 feet.

” This is unheard of ! I don’t know of any other community that allows a marijuana facility near a school,” Kapalla-Bondi said. “City ordinances require a buffer zone of 1,000 feet (with schools with a curriculum equivalent to K-12).”

She said the Tech Center provides vocational instruction and training to 11th and 12th graders who are bussed from county high schools for morning and afternoon sessions.

She added that the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act also provides for a buffer zone of 1,000 feet from a school.

“(Endorsing this) sends a horrible message that the value of children is determined by their career path,” she said. “There is no way to grant a special land use permit for this site without violating state law or demeaning the aspirations of 800 children.”

Parents and other members of the public have expressed concerns about traffic, visual distractions and messages.

Royal Oak City Attorney Aaron Leal said the school was established before the area in question was zoned industrial; while its ability to operate as a school would not be permitted under the current zoning map, it is grandfathered.

He said he could not comment on the particular issue of proximity because two lawsuits had been filed against the city, including one relating to the school buffer, and he had not yet been able to discuss the cases with the city commission. in camera.

Leal said the city’s zoning amendments regarding marijuana regulations provide “deviations from required standards that allow for deviation from setback,” including the 1,000-foot buffer zone.

Planning Commission members said the map the city made available to potential applicants regarding marijuana facilities identified industrial areas where such activity is permitted, but did not include the vocational school.

“I think when staff were looking at schools, they were looking at schools in traditional single-family zoning, where schools are supposed to be,” Planning Commissioner Sharlan Douglas said. “Applicants developed plans and submitted proposals on the assumption that there was no educational buffer or educational setback in this area.”

She said the petitioners made a “good faith request” to us and that the body should “judge it based on that good faith request”.

Mayor Michael Fournier said he was “struggling with the technicalities of the law,” citing that he believed the project met the seven special land use criteria set out in city ordinances regulating such projects.

Douglas and Fournier, who both voted against denying the special land use and site plan, also both sit on the city commission. Planning commissioners Gary Quesada, Ann Bueche and Paul Curtis voted in favor of the denial recommendation.

Quesada said that while he thought it was a “great project,” he didn’t believe the agency “had the discretion to override state law in this case.”

Bueche said she felt the school should have been identified on the map and that its omission was “regrettable” because Royal Oak voters support recreational marijuana retailers in the city.

“I think the buffer should be maintained, personally,” she said. “Given it’s a school and given the 1,000 feet, I can’t support this project either.”

Curtis said he didn’t have a problem with cannabis in the community, but he objected to “treating this particular school any differently than any other school in our community.”

“I don’t want to communicate to students that they are somehow different from other students in our community,” Curtis said.

Proposed royal treatment
The second public hearing involved Royal Treatment, a proposed marijuana retailer located in a vacant approximately 3,000 square foot building at 408 to 424 E. Harrison Ave. It would combine the parcels and operate as 420 E. Harrison Ave.

The petitioners propose substantial exterior and interior improvements, including environmentally sustainable features such as a pocket park, gated parking lot, green roof, solar panels and wind turbines. If approved, the operators have pledged $50,000 a year to Royal Oak charities.

Residents of nearby residential properties opposed the project. Concerns included traffic from the estimated 200 to 300 initial sales per day, an increase in crime, as well as a divergence from the character of the area.

Many neighbors said the area in question, although zoned industrial, is a haven for high-end residential developments that have led to a “south-end renaissance” of the city.

The property in question is located approximately 50 feet from the building of Phil Baciak, who spoke at the meeting and wrote a letter of opposition to the project on behalf of the residents of 33 on Harrison Condos. It is also near Lawson Park.

“The City of Royal Oak has nearly 12 square miles of land – we as a community must protect the sanctity of our neighborhoods and refuse to allow these high traffic retail businesses (similar to a fast food restaurant ) to open in areas that we have turned into beautiful residential areas,” wrote Christopher Ott, president of The Crossings at Irving Avenue Homeowners Association, in a letter to the Planning Commission.

Fournier said he understood the traffic issues.

“I’m not sure there’s a solution for everything that would go there,” he said.

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