Niles DDA recommends marijuana dispensaries downtown

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, September 29, 2021

NILES — One local organization is asking that the city of Niles allow a budding industry to sprout downtown.

Monday evening, the Niles Downtown Development Authority Board voted six to one to recommend that the city allow two marijuana dispensaries, which sell cannabis and cannabis products, in the downtown district. Under current city ordinances and zoning regulations, no dispensaries are allowed in the downtown corridor.

“Most of [the board] feel that it’s time for the city to find a way to add a couple dispensaries to downtown Niles, which was excluded from the original zoning for various reasons,” said DDA President Bryan Williams.

Williams said the board was inspired to recommend dispensaries downtown by looking to other Michigan cities that have done so with success. Specifically, Williams said the board looked toward nearby Buchanan, which has multiple provisioning centers operational on its downtown strip.

“After watching other neighborhoods around us, other cities around us, succeed with downtown dispensaries, we as a board thought it was time to maybe move forward here,” he said. “This will bring a lot more people downtown.”

Williams believes downtown Niles has the existing business community to make allowing dispensaries worthwhile. He believes adding dispensaries would draw in customers, who would then visit other businesses and restaurants while they are downtown.

“We’ve got all these restaurants in our DDA district, but no dispensaries in our downtown corridor,” Williams said. “We feel we can fill that void that Buchanan has made in their progress.”

DDA Director Lisa Croteau agreed that dispensaries downtown could benefit other businesses by drawing in customers.

“It certainly does seem to be a traffic driver,” she said. “[Traffic flows into other business] when people come for the antique mall. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t for another business.”

Additionally, Williams said dispensaries could benefit the downtown by filling vacant buildings.

“We only recommended for two [dispensaries], but it could be a great way to fill a couple of these buildings,” he said.

The DDA’s next step is to have their recommendation put on a city council meeting agenda, where council members would vote on whether to accept or deny the DDA’s recommendation.

“We are just a volunteer organization, and we don’t really have any power over something like this,” Williams said. “This is us saying, ‘we see this as a benefit in other towns. We would like to see this happen here too.’”

“The ultimate decision is up to council into whether or not they will allow it or where they will allow it,” Croteau added. “It’s my expectation that as soon as our minutes are published, that request will go to the city council.”