By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Township Board voted 3-2 July 3 to approve conditional rezoning allowing Muskegon-based Agri-Med, LLC to build a medical marijuana provisioning center on 3.5 acres fronting Blue Star Highway between Spectators Restaurant and Lakeshore Tackle and Firearms.
Members reversed, not without reservations, the planning commission voting 5-2 June 3 not to recommend redesignating the 3577 64th St. parcel fronting Blue Star on the highway’s south side, citing concerns about setting precedents.
Agri-Med’s Aaron Smith told board members last week the firm has proposed six spelled out, specific conditions to address planners’ expressed concerns. Significant among those is the rezoning would only be effective if the property is used for a state-licensed medical marijuana provisioning center, precluding the possibility of a “big box” store, allowed also on C-3 land.
Smith said Agri-Med, owned by North Muskegon businessman Greg Maki, is a vertically-integrated medical marijuana company drawing on years of experience managing such operations throughout the United States.
It became the fifth firm in Michigan April 19, 2018, to pre-qualify to operate provisioning centers, processing and cultivation centers in the state.
“We opened our first such center three weeks ago in Muskegon, that city’s first,” said Smith. “We will open Ottawa County’s first medical marijuana facility, in Nunicam by month’s end.”
Agri-Med, he said, plans to rehab a vacant home present on the Blue Star property and continue to use the building for operations. The 8.47-acre total lot, listed by Rob Joon of Shoreline Realtors, is or will be split into two parcels, with applicant under contract to purchase the northernmost Parcel A (see map) should the rezoning be approved.
Saugatuck Township this winter voted to allow medical marijuana facilities on C-3 Interchange Commercial parcels and growing centers on I-1 Industrial-zoned land, both also requiring Special Approval Uses.
On April 22 planners OK’d rezoning 2.8 undeveloped acres near I-196 Exit 36 south of Douglas from C-3 to I-1, allowing former Hercules Restaurant owners Don Schipper and John Seros to build a growing facility on the site.
Tammy Jacobi, who closed her Good Intentions Paving Co. medical marijuana business in the township in 2011 but has maintained a Chicago operation with that name since then, has for two years held an option on the 2.78-acre lot directly north of the Schipper/Seros parcel with plans to place a provisioning center on it. Its C-3 zoning already allows that use.
Smith said he found planners’ approving the I-1 growing request April 22 but at the same meeting denying Agri-Med’s “less disruptive” C-3 ask “hard to comprehend.”
The commission asked Smith that night to provide a more-detailed application, which he said included an overview of the project, civil engineer information and draft conditional rezoning agreement prepared by counsel, at a subsequent meeting. That too was turned down June 3.
He told the board July 3 a rezone to C-3 was compatible with surrounding retail/commercial uses — the gun shop, Spectators, Burger King, Shell, BP and Dunes View Kwik Shop, Laketown Cat Hospital and Dairy Dayz — plus the township master plan for the property.
“In conclusion,” wrote Smith in a 7-page document detailing Agri-Med’s proposal to the board, “the property is an ideal location for a medical marijuana provisioning center.
“It is located adjacent to highways, surrounded by compatible uses and directly abuts C-3 property. The conditional rezoning agreement allows the township to take the most conservative approach to permit the use, with strict conditions.
“Applicant requests to be treated with similar flexibility as the other recent land use approvals and request the township approve the conditional rezoning of the land,” Smith said.
“Ed Welk,” said treasurer Jon Helmrich, “and I were the commission members who voted for the proposal June 3. To me, it qualifies for C-3.”
“Overturning a planning commission recommendation is like undermining them,” cautioned supervisor Cindy Osman. “We might prefer sending this request back to them.”
”I remain concerned about setting a precedent,” said clerk Abby Bigford.
Helmrich, trustees Stacey Aldrich and Brenda Marcy voted to approve the rezoning. Osman and Bigford were opposed.
“Thank you,” Smith said. “We want to do business with Saugatuck Township and are willing to work with you. Other communities can attest to that.
“We’ve invested millions,” the Agri-Med spokesman said.