Buchanan city commissioners put the brakes on a proposed new recreational marijuana business

Published 2:08 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2020

BUCHANAN – Buchanan City Commissioners are putting the brakes on a proposed new recreational marijuana business in the city.

The action came at Monday night’s City Commission meeting which also featured action on joining the state’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program.

The commission heard from representatives with Tranquility Fields at start of the meeting which once again was held remotely because of COVID-19 pandemic gathering size restrictions. Representatives said they hope to open a new microbusiness marijuana business and have an option on a property on E. Front Street in Buchanan through early January.

Edward Santangelo told commissioners that the company has a franchise business model with offering local community members the chance to own a small business and participate in cannabis.

“Our model is to give support to local franchise owners and support local communities,” he said.

He and two other company representatives calling into the meeting said that a new state law goes into effect March 1 that allows businesses to sell recreational marijuana without having first had a medical marijuana license. They said they are ready to go with 55 franchises around the state.

Commissioners voted to not review the Tranquility Fields proposal until they receive a recommendation from the city’s planning commission. Even if the planning commission is favorable to the proposal, it would require the city commission to amend its adult use marijuana ordinance to allow for another business.

Currently, the city’s adult use marijuana ordinance allows for six recreational marijuana retail businesses including one microbusiness license. The microbusiness license already given out is for a property on Carrol Street.

Commissioner Patrick Swem was skeptical about moving forward without a planning commission recommendation. He agreed with resident Alan Robandt who also spoke against the proposal.

“We have allowed our existing marijuana businesses to develop fully yet,” he said. “I would be against adding another license. I feel we have sufficient retail right now.”

“We already have six businesses having trouble making money, adding another one is completely senseless,” Robandt said. He did say that the marijuana businesses already here have had a positive impact on the downtown including his own antique business where he’s gotten customers from Indianapolis and points south who are coming for the marijuana.

Swem and other commissioners did say that they appreciated Tranquility Fields’ interest in Buchanan.

“We appreciate your time even if we don’t move forward,” Mark Weedon said.

Commissioners moved forward with joining the Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities Program. The program is offered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to aid communities around the state.

City Manager Heather Grace said that the program differs from the Michigan Main Street Program in that it focuses on planning and zoning best practices through the entire city instead of concentrating solely on the downtown.

“The services we will get are free technical assistance from the state through the MEDC plus more access to grants,” she said.

Many of the items on Monday night’s agenda were postponed until the commission’s Jan. 11 meeting. Those items included requests from individuals both want to purchase city-owned properties and to sell their properties to the city.

Grace recommended and commissioners agreed to postpone action on these items. They did so not only because the requests had come in late last week and they didn’t have time to fully look into them but also because they are having a joint work session with the planning commissioner the first week of January.

Two of the proposals concern possible future sites for the city’s Department of Public Works building and/or an entire municipal campus. One site is a former retirement center at 1207 North Redbud Trail and is owned by Kim Moyer. The other is the one being developed on Third Street by Bill and Mack Green.

The North Redbud Trail site was opposed by Robandt. He noted that city officials recommended more than a decade ago that the site would a good location for middle and upper income high rise apartments. He also opposed the Green proposal to locate the DPW building there.

Two local residents have expressed interest in buying city-owned properties adjacent to theirs on Elizabeth, Bluff and Michigan Streets. Commissioners expressed a desire to have city staff develop a list of all city-owned properties including their values before they make any decision.

In other action, commissioners decided to not cancel their Dec. 28 meeting. A majority of commissioners felt that having the meeting would give them another chance to discuss ongoing and upcoming projects before the early January joint work session with the planning commission.

Commissioners renewed the annual application by Zen Leaf for their recreational marijuana retail establishment. Their business at 259 E. Front St. has been open since May, 2019.

They also gave Grace permission to buy eight new computers for city hall at a cost not to exceed $7,237.04 which is the quote received from the city’s IT consultant. Commissioners said they would consider approving more money for the computers if she can find laptops that are capable of handling the city’s software programs.