2018-07-05 / Front Page

Holy smokes!

Commission green lights site plan for marijuana grow at shuttered church
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

GAINES TWP. – Citizens and township officials objected, but in the end, state law overruled in the year-long battle over a proposed medical marijuana grow at a former church.

June 27, the township Planning Commission approved the site plan for the former Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, 10289 Seymour Road.

Grand Blanc-based Oakfield Hills Partners submitted the proposal.

Township attorney Michael Gildner advised the commission and the Board of Trustees that the township may not prohibit medical marijuana operations conducted within the parameters of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which voters approved in 2008.

Gildner said the commission must judge the site plan based on the information provided, not on fears of what might happen.

“While a lot of us don’t agree with it, as long as they’re meeting state regulations, it can’t be stopped,” Police Chief Mark Schmitzer explained to about a dozen residents who attended the Planning Commission meeting. “I don’t agree with every law I have to enforce … but I will do what state law says I must do.”

Schmitzer also pointed out there are a lot of home grows within the township.

Brian Gibson was one of the residents who spoke against the plan.

“My grandparents helped build that church,” Gibson said. “Their plan was that it be a house of prayer.”

Gibson said it is “incredibly disrespectful” to convert a former church to the proposed use.

“This is something that needs to be solved in Lansing,” said Commission Chairman William Harris. “We wish we had more authority.”

Rachel and Kirk Brinkman also opposed the plan. The couple and their three young children moved next door to the church about a month ago.

“This is not a lifestyle we would like our family exposed to,” Rachel Brinkman said.

Township officials became aware that renovations were taking place inside the vacant building last year. Schmitzer issued a stop work order and advised the owners they must obtain proper permits and approvals.

Attorney Robert Huth represents the investors, who have agreed to several stipulations; most notably, limiting the number of caregivers to one.

Early on, township officials were concerned about the potential for up to six caregivers, each growing the allowable 72 plants.

Investors also agreed to install an 8-foot fence, eight security cameras which will be monitored off-site round-the-clock, carbon monoxide detectors, metal bars on windows, an alarm system, double-bolt locks and chain locks.

The commission set no requirements for fire suppression or air filtering.

Authorities will have to address any issues with odors if and when they crop up, said Commissioner Lee Purdy.

“It’s covered under the township’s nuisance ordinance,” he said. “It’s outside our jurisdiction at this time.”

Operators also must permit police to have unannounced access to inspect the facility at least quarterly and remove all vestiges of the church.

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