THREE OAKS – During a well-attended March 11 Three Oaks Village Council meeting, the main topic of comment and conversation was the Recreational Marijuana Report issued by the Planning Commission.
When the lengthy discussion ended, a motion to send the matter back to the Planning Commission and have members compose a draft ordinance pertaining to whether or not the village should opt in or out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses and retail sales of the newly-legal substance received unanimous approval.
Prior to that vote and taking comments from members of the audience, Village President Dave Grosse said that this would not be the only meeting on the subject of whether or not the municipality should decide to opt out or opt in to allow for the licensing of businesses to grow, sell and/or distribute marijuana in the village.
A proposal to make it legal for people in Michigan 21 years or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their person and up to 10 ounces in their homes was approved by voters in 2018, but municipalities retained the right to opt out of the legalization of marijuana businesses.
All of those in the audience who chose to comment on the matter advocated for opting in.
Among them was Byron Nevills who explained that he was currently a caregiver for five people and was legally allowed to grow 60 marijuana plants for his patients.
“I’m currently in the process of getting approved by the state for a 100 plant grow, and I’d like to have the opportunity to sell,” Nevills commented. “I’d like to be able to do that here and not have to move, but I’ve met with great resistance from the Village Council. I’ve been open and honest with the village and my neighbors about what I’m doing.”
Pat Mullins, a business owner in the village, said that he and over another 100 people in the village had voiced their support for opting in.
Trustee Colleen Newquist, the village liaison to the Planning Commission, said the report issued by the Marijuana Committee noted the pros and cons of the village deciding to opt in or out.
“We welcomed public input, and overwhelmingly people spoke up in favor of allowance,” Newquist said. “And, we haven’t discussed other related businesses such as grow facilities and processing businesses.
“There is no revenue in this for us unless we allow retail sales,” she added. “If we do decide to opt in, where do we want these types of businesses located? We need to spell all of this out so people can react to something more specific.”
Trustee Troy Zebell concurred, and he commented, “The issue is so broad now that it’s hard for us to make a decision. We need to tighten the fences on this.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Graziano said that he was among the majority of voters who marked their ballots to approve legalization statewide, but that vote wasn’t to allow it in the village, which was a separate issue.
“Just because 60 percent of voters around the state approved this, it doesn’t mean we have to do it here or do it now,” he commented. “I’d like to see a public hearing conducted in front of this Village Council.”
When he asked how the licensing process would work, audience member and attorney Devin Loker said it was similar to liquor licenses that were very regulated and issued by the state on an annual basis.
He added that he would like to have the opinion of village attorney Charles Hilmer sought before any future decisions were made.
Grosse said that more details on the matter were needed before a final decision could be made.
In other business, a motion to purchase uniforms and supply nametag badges for village employees at a cost of $2,000 received unanimous consent.
That action was taken in response to a number of home invasions in the community by perpetrators who pose as utility workers or service technicians in order to get access to homes, and it was noted that they usual target older individuals.
Grosse said that the Village had sent out a special notice to alert residents to the situation and to give them some tips on what to do.
It reads in part: “Please be careful and don’t open your door for anyone you don’t know. All of our water/sewer and public works employees drive vehicles that have the village’s name on them.
Don’t be complacent, and watch for unmarked vehicles that aren’t familiar, because if you notice something that seems strange or odd to you, chances are you’re right.”
Also on the agenda, after discussion there was unanimous approval for the village to apply for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passport matching grant in the amount of $50,000 to be used for the first of two phases of upgrades to Watkins Park.
That vote was preceded by a public hearing on the grant application.
The total $150,000 cost will also include funding from a $50,000 grant from The Pokagon Fund, and a $50,000 contribution from the village.
Phase I upgrades would include the installation of sand volleyball courts and horseshoe pits.
Phase II additions would include tennis and pickle ball courts as well as an ice skating rink.
If the MDNR Recreation Passport grant application is successful it would be awarded in November, and work on the upgrades would be done in 2021.
Finally, just prior to adjourning the members went into a closed session to discuss the candidates who have applied for the position of Village Manager.