2017-10-01 / Front Page

Village planning commission pre-qualifies medical marijuana applicants

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

Chesaning Village Administrator Troy Feltman addresses the audience prior to the Sept. 26 village planning commission meeting. More than 70 people crowded into the council chamber to for discussion about medical marijuana special use permit applications. 
Photo by Jeanne Marcello Chesaning Village Administrator Troy Feltman addresses the audience prior to the Sept. 26 village planning commission meeting. More than 70 people crowded into the council chamber to for discussion about medical marijuana special use permit applications. Photo by Jeanne Marcello VILLAGE OF CHESANING – On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Chesaning Village Planning Commission spent more than four hours and 30 minutes reviewing special use permit applications for one medical marijuana growing and processing operation and five medical marijuana dispensaries.

More than 70 individuals were in the audience at the start of the meeting. Village administrator Troy Feltman addressed the crowd saying, “Tonight’s meeting is about the applicants.” He explained the planning commission would review the applications in light of the ordinance. “The village council will make the decision on issuance of the licenses. I’ve reviewed the applications. All applicants have passed the background check,” Feltman said.

The first application, #09052017, proposed to establish a marijuana growing and processing facility located at 624 Brady St., the former location of Pro- Auction. The applicant’s representative, Jason Pasko said, “We are proposing a very happy and successful grow and processing operation.” He explained that the company sells the processed products to the dispensaries. These products are transported by armored car. He said the building has approximately 70,000 square feet and the facility they are proposing would have 1,500 plants multiplied by three growing facilities, requiring three licenses for growing and one license for processing.

Pasko talked about his experience in casino security and surveillance, and said that is why he knows how to ensure security for a marijuana growing and processing facility. He described security features such as a high fence, restricted access and lots of lighting.

“We view it as an excellent opportunity, not just for us, but for the community. It’s like any regular employer you would have, but more secure. It’s a very tough business to be in. Our building isn’t even allowed to have a sign on it,” Pasko said.

He explained it takes a lot of energy, water and skill to grow marijuana. “Anymore, people don’t like smoke. Edibles have become more popular,” Pasko said.

“We are only here to do business legally within the state,” he said. He explained each plant will be tracked by the state. “[There’s] no sign allowing any connection to cannabis, by law. No leaf, no green, nothing allowed by law. We will be as sealed as possible. It limits bugs, contaminants and odors,” Pasko said.

“This brings jobs to this community, tax dollars. It’s a well-regulated business and you need people with that kind of track record. We are looking for a community that is accepting of us. We have adequate parking and drainage,” Pasko said.

Planning commission chair Ellen Rodman asked about chemicals and pesticides on the premises.

Pasko responded, “That’s a huge issue in the industry. Cleanliness is number one. We do recycle any product used in the water. We dispose of very little water in the system.” He mentioned the use of natural oils. “We’re going to be as organic as we possibly can,” he said.

Planning commissioner Katie Greenfelder asked, “But you’re not eliminating the option to use chemicals?”

Pasko said, “Some chemical has to be used.”

Planning commissioner Bill Barnum said, “You say marijuana is hard to grow?” He commented about how easy it seems to grow outdoors.

Pasko explained that outdoor, one plant can produce about nine pounds of product in one crop per growing season.

The difference is, with the intensity of growing indoors, they can raise five or six crops in a year.

Planning commissioner Denise Navarre asked if they use butane.

Pasko responded, “We will be using water or CO2. So, no flammable materials.”

Greenfelder asked about the number of people they would employ.

Pasko said, “In total, about 20 to 25 employees. This is really just a start for us. We want to be first, with the highest quality product.”

Navarre expressed her concerns about how the waste from processing and recycling would be going into the municipal sewer system. She also pointed out the building’s close proximity to a church.

Pasko responded, “The impact of a grow facility is very minimal. Compliant, safe, secure and smelling great.”

Rodman asked about waste. Pasko said, “We’d be throwing out stems and leaves, but it would not be recognizable. It’s a very minimal amount of waste.”

During the public hearing, residents expressed concerns about building security, potential odors, potential groundwater contamination, disclosure to neighbors if they’re having problems, and a medical doctor’s arguments against using marijuana for medicinal use. One resident spoke in support of the operation due to the business revenue and tax dollars it would bring into the community.

Barnum asked how many grow facilities they were trying to get into the state of Michigan. Pasko responded, “For the moment, this is it.”

One resident asked how much money the group would be investing to get the operation off the ground. Pasko responded, “Multi-millions, just for the three grow and the one processing facility.”

After closing the public hearing, the Chesaning Planning Commission reviewed the grow and processing application against the village ordinance and voted to approve the special use permit with the condition that the applicant provide a chemical storage and growing plan. The motion passed with four “yes” votes to one “no” vote.

The planning commission listened as each of the five medical marijuana dispensary proposals was presented, competing for the two licenses allowed in the village ordinance. Parking availability surfaced as a key concern for several locations.

Dispensary applicants each presented a proposal with a different location for their dispensary. The first dispensary application, #08152017, proposed locating at 139 S. Saginaw St., next to the Rehmann Health Center. The second, #08292017, is at 144 W. Broad St., the former Gewirtz Hardware building. The third dispensary proposal, #08312017, was for 135 N. Front St.; the former Arthur’s Pizza building. The fourth, #09012017-1, was 101 N. Front St., the former Dollar Daze store. The fifth and final proposal, #09012017- 2, was proposed for 107 W. Broad St., formerly The Sweet Shop. The planning commission reviewed each application against the ordinance and questioned the applicants. Public hearings were opened for each one with the audience asking questions.

All five of the medical marijuana dispensary applications presented during the Sept. 26 planning commission meeting cleared the first hurdle, qualifying for a special use permit. They will be going to the village council for further review at the Oct. 3 meeting. It will be up to the village council to determine which receive licenses to operate within the village, provided they can obtain licenses from the state of Michigan.

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