Farmington Hills medical marijuana changes pass on split vote

Farmington Hills officials moved forward medical marijuana zoning ordinance changes Monday, with two still unhappy about their proximity to residents’ homes.

The new rules would remove caregiving from the list of approved uses in neighborhoods and add it to the city’s light industrial districts. Council members last November asked for a Planning Commission review, after a spate of resident complaints.

Up to 72 plants

Michigan’s medical marijuana law allows caregivers to grow up to 72 plants for themselves and five patients. Planning and Community Development Director Ed Gardiner said the city has received complaints about operations in around 30 homes.

Consultant Rod Arroyo of Giffels Webster outlined these provisions:

  • Operations can’t locate next to properties with a “sensitive” use, like daycares and schools.
  • Owners must adhere to state regulations.
  • Up to five growers can set up shop in one building.
  • Each caregiver would have to maintain a secure facility and get all required permits.
  • Buildings should look like others in the area, with no detectable odor beyond the property line.

Legal caregiving operations already in place would remain as a legal, nonconforming use, Gardiner said. He wasn’t aware of any legal operations within city limits.

Council member Matthew Strickfaden asked about the procedure for reporting complaints or suspected illegal operations. City manager Gary Mekjian said residents should call his office.

‘They wanted this to work’

Officials also discussed the potential for odors wafting into residential neighborhoods. Council members Michael Bridges and Mary Newlin both asked about prohibiting the businesses within a certain distance of homes.

City planner Mark Stec said the Planning Commission took a serious look at that issue. Only a handful of properties fall into the light industrial classification; the change would eliminate many from consideration.

“They didn’t want to essentially out-zone the use,” he said. “They wanted this to work.”

Mayor Vicki Barnett also noted Michigan’s marijuana law prohibits officials from zoning the use out of their city.

Strickfaden asked whether the ordinance had any “teeth” with nuisance odors. Gardiner said ticketing and fines are a first step, followed by seeking a court order to enforce the ordinance. City Attorney Steve Joppich said the city could also ask a judge for an injunction to shut down an operation.

The ordinance will get one more review at a future meeting before approval.

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