The Planning Commission of Ann Arbor voted on Sept. 5 to approve the conversion of an abandoned BP gas station into a medical marijuana dispensary. The vote involved a special-exception use permit in order to convert the 833 square foot gas station.
The lot is located next to the Victory Inn and Suites, a hotel the city is currently battling in court to have shut down because of alleged criminal activity. According to commissioner Zachary Ackerman, the city has a successful track record of shutting down businesses associated with criminal activity. Considering abstinence-based treatment programs for addiction only have about a 5% success rate, fall back into criminal activity is likely common. Ackerman is optimistic that the city will be able to get the hotel shut down, despite the litigation’s “still pending” status, and that it will not have an impact on the running of the dispensary.
Ann Arbor’s Planning Commission also approved the building of a medical marijuana dispensary inside of a retail space on the city’s west side. With these two most recent approvals, Ann Arbor will have 23 dispensaries. The city has a cap of 28 on dispensary permits. This current limit allows the city to see how the growing medical marijuana industry affects the community and if its presence will be beneficial. They expect to reach the 28-permit cap relatively soon with several dispensary applications on deck.
It’s clear that the state of Michigan has come a long way since 2016 when 84.7% of the nation’s 1,186,810 arrests for drug law violations included possession of a controlled substance like marijuana. This newfound acceptance of the drug has certainly benefitted some business owners.
For the planned dispensary at the former gas station, which is on the city’s east side, there are a few renovation steps to go through before they can open up for business. Although a gas station may shut down due to lack of business, the old service station is usually left behind. After years of use, former gas station lots are saturated with hazardous chemicals, making conversion tricky without the proper cleaning and improvements.
The first step of the conversion is to remove the gasoline pumps and canopy on the property. The plans also include eliminating one of the two entry/exit drives, new landscaping and sidewalk improvements, and providing new bicycle parking.
According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, over 50,000 gasoline stations have been abandoned since 1991. With major retailers, such as Walmart and Cotsco, selling gasoline, consumers don’t waste time with regular gas stations. They instead focus on locations where they can get their shopping done and fill their gas tanks at the same time, leaving the usual gas station to bankruptcy and abandonment.