Wednesday, February 1, 2023

‘We need the public’s input’

Reynolds Township, Howard City both looking to allow marijuana businesses

Reynolds Township Trustee Bob Bergstrom, right, explains why he doesn’t think the majority of the township wants local marijuana businesses during a Jan. 12 meeting of the township board as Trustee Dave Saucier listens. — DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

REYNOLDS TOWNSHIP — Marijuana businesses may soon be allowed to open within the village of Howard City and surrounding Reynolds Township.

The Reynolds Township Board on Jan. 12 directed its Planning Commission to hold a public hearing on Feb. 2 regarding an ordinance to regulate marijuana businesses within the township. The Howard City Village Council followed suit a few days later, discussing the topic on Jan. 16 and directing Village Manager Mike Falcon to pursue the steps necessary to bring an ordinance to allow marijuana businesses in the village.

“The Village Council directed me to look at our ordinance regarding marijuana,” Falcon told the Daily News. “I have since reached out to our village attorney and will be bringing information back to our Village Council soon.”

Kyle Brockschmidt, left, who wants to open a marijuana microbusiness in Reynolds Township, explains some concerns he has with the township’s draft marijuana ordinance during a Jan. 12 meeting of the township board. Listening next to Brockschmidt are Reynolds Township Planning Commission Chairman Ed Kentgen and Planning Commission member Chuck DeLaney. A public hearing will be held on the topic of marijuana during the Feb. 2 meeting of the Planning Commission.— DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

In Reynolds Township, the topic dates back to May 2022 when the township board first discussed opting into marijuana for a microbusiness as requested by resident Kyle Brockschmidt, who lives on M-82.

The township board this past November discussed a marijuana microbusiness ordinance with a maximum of three licenses and voted 3-1 to adopt a resolution to regulate marijuana in the township. Supervisor Aaron Kindel, Clerk Robin Sholty and Trustee Dave Saucier voted “yes” while Trustee Bob Bergstrom voted “no” (Treasurer Roger Stedman was absent).

Some confusion over the marijuana ordinance has arisen since then and on Jan. 12, the township board voted 4-0 to rescind the marijuana resolution from November (with Stedman again absent).

Township board members were under the impression that the Planning Commission was going to discuss the marijuana ordinance and have a public hearing on the topic earlier this month, but there was apparently some miscommunication and Planning Commission members were confused as to what exactly they were supposed to do, so they held off on taking any action.

At the Jan. 12 township board meeting, Kindel and Sholty both agreed the work their attorney did on the draft marijuana ordinance/resolution likely added to some of the confusion.

The Reynolds Township Board discussed creating a marijuana ordinance to allow marijuana businesses to open within the township during their Jan. 12 meeting. From left, trustees Dave Saucier and Bob Bergstrom, Supervisor Aaron Kindel and Clerk Robin Sholty. A public hearing will be held on the matter during the Feb. 2 meeting of the Planning Commission.— DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

“There’s a person (Brockschmidt) who came and wanted to do a microbusiness with 300 plants,” Kindel recounted. “In talking to the attorney he says, ‘hey, if you’re going to open it up for that, you can address all this in one meeting,’ so that’s where this (draft) came into play which listed a bunch of stuff. We were only thinking about microbusiness and dispensary, but he listed it all.”

“He listed everything and that’s where all the confusion started,” Sholty agreed. “Do we need to take out what we don’t necessarily want right know and sent it back to the attorney? There’s several options. I say we just go what we talked about and forget the others.”

Bergstrom has previously voiced concern about allowing marijuana within the township, noting that the master plan doesn’t address marijuana and adding that he doesn’t think residents are clamoring for marijuana businesses within the township. Sholty responded to this by saying that the township sent out surveys when working on the master plan but received very few in return (about 169 surveys were returned out of the township’s approximate 3,900 addresses), which she said wasn’t representative of the community. She added that the township attorney said a marijuana ordinance has nothing to do with the master plan.

Brockschmidt, who was present in the audience, voiced some concerns with ordinance as currently drafted, including a lack of renewal stipulations, as well as the odor control requirements (he said a negative air pressure requirement is counterproductive as it will pump air out of the building which will thus pump the marijuana smell out of building). He said his proposed microbusiness will be located “in the middle of 40 acres of woods.”

“Unless you’re protecting rabbits, smell is not an issue,” he said. “If there’s no odor off the property, I don’t want to have to spend ungodly amounts of money on a system just to stop it from being outside the door because it’s not hurting anybody.”

“It’s a draft, we’re still working on it,” Sholty responded to Brockschmidt.

“I apologize for all the confusion,” she added to Planning Commission members.

The township board meeting ended with board members directing the Planning Commission to hold a public hearing on the topic of a marijuana ordinance at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2 to gather public input. The township attorney will be present to help answer questions.

“If we get give people in here and they have some concerns, that’s not relevant to the whole township,” Kindel noted. “We’ll take opinions into consideration but we’re not going to get total representation of the whole township.”

“We need the public’s input,” Sholty said. “We’ve gotta have it.”

In other Planning Commission news, the township board voted 4-0 to pay Planning Commission members for their work at meetings dating back to April 2022 — especially since the Planning Commission has put a lot of time into working on a master plan and a solar energy ordinance over the past year. Planning Commission members had been doing all the work for free. They will now receive $35 per person per meeting. The money will come out of extra money in the township’s election budget, according to Sholty.

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