THREE OAKS — The Three Oaks Village Council paved the way for the licensing of marijuana businesses in the village along the U.S. 12 corridor during its Oct. 21 meeting.

The proposed Village of Three Oaks Regulation of Medical and Adult-Use Marihuana Ordinance passed without change by a 6-1 vote following a public hearing held as past of the Oct. 21 session.

Village President David Grosse (who cast the lone "no" vote on that ordinance) said it would allow licenses for one marijuana retailer, one microbusiness, two growers, two processors, one safety compliance facility and one transporter.

It took longer to determine where such entities could be located.

Proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance Amendments Related to Marihuana Businesses sparked a lengthy discussion among council members, a series of motions and amendments, and two votes.

Council member Troy Zebell proposed altering the proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance to add setback requirements mandating that marijuana businesses be allowed no closer than 500 feet from parks (excepting Memorial Park at the American Legion post), churches, libraries and schools. That motion received a second from Steve Graziano.

But during subsequent discussion on the matter it became clear that a majority of council members favored having much of the "U.S. 12 corridor" open to marijuana businesses.

Newquist said the amendment made by Zebell would essentially limit such businesses to the undeveloped Enterprise Park.

Zebell said he supports the limits because of his concern for children, and wants to keep such businesses away from areas where families spend time together.

The first zoning-related motion was defeated by a 6-1 tally with Graziano, John Kramer, Becky Thomas, John Pappa, Newquist and Grosse voting "no" while Zebell voted "yes."

After several revisions, a motion made by Graziano to approve the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments Related to Marihuana Businesses with the addition of a 400-foot setback from Watkins Park while retaining the state-mandated 500-foot buffer for the elementary school was approved by a 6-1 vote that was a mirror image of the earlier tally on Zebell's motion.

The zoning ordinance as amended and approved allows marijuana-related businesses in the C-1 and I-1 zoning districts along with Enterprise Park (all along Ash Street/U.S. 12). During council discussion it was noted that setbacks related to the library were irrelevant since that part of the village does not fall in the pertinent zoning districts.

"Thanks a lot folks, it's been a long haul," Grosse commented.

Attorney Joslyn Monahan of Kreis Enderle Hudgins & Borsos, P.C. said the initial bidding period for those seeking licenses will be set by the council.

Grosse said that should give village officials time to come up with administrative rules for the process.

Prior to the votes, the Village Council held a public hearing on the marihuana ordinances.

Those making comments included the following:

• Devin Loker (who noted that he is with Exclusive Healing, which has a proposed Three Oaks location at 6761 Ash St ) raised concerns about the new issue of setbacks from churches and park that could "buffer out our location."

"We're 490 foot from a church, and west of The Featherbone — that bar in town there."

The zoning portion of the ordinance as later adopted by the council includes a setback from Watkins Park measuring 400 feet from the edge of that property to the edge of buildings on adjacent parcels — a distance that township officials believe falls short of the Exclusive Healing site.

• Marco Chavarry said he believes "there are two sides to this story, we just have to find a point in-between so we can all move forward and possibly take advantage of the benefits it could bring to our village."

• Angela Reichert spoke against "these extra distance restrictions." "Nobody's going to put it out at Enterprise Park, and it that's your way of making it never happen then it's very selfish and short-sighted."

• Dan Milsk (SP) asked the council to not deny anyone the opportunity by applying unfair zoning restrictions that could deny local people the chance to open a cannabis business, "especially when it comes towards distances from churches and parks."

• Suzanna Bierwirth asked council members "please don't deny us the opportunity to have this very important kind of business in town," adding that marijuana businesses are more highly regulated than gun shops or anything involving alcohol.

• Kim Pruitt said if marijuana businesses were required to be at least 1,000 feet from entities such as the library and schools that would leave only west highway 12, benefitting a small group of people.

• Tom Flint asked the council to take the work done by the Planning Commission very seriously.

• Tom Pauly said he believes marijuana will bring in needed income for Three Oaks.

"Whether or not it's going to be on 12 or downtown, I think Three Oaks should actually embrace it and promote it and try and bring in as much revenue as possible for the town."

• Jenny Alderink said she has safety concerns and doesn't want the discussion of the issue to be one-sided.

• Nick LaFlex said studies have shown that marijuana businesses don't increase crime in communities.

Barring a special session before the Nov. 3 election, the Oct. 21 meeting marked Grosse's farewell as village president.

He was thanked for his 12 years of service to the village by several council members and others on the Zoom meeting.

Grosse thanked "the people of Three Oaks for having faith in me."

"It's been an honor and a privilege, I really mean it. And I'm humbled by doing this job."

He also thanked "a bunch of people" including those serving on village councils and other municipal boards through the years, village employees and "the people of this town."

Grosse said the 2008 audit of the village showed a total of $757,000 in the bank, a street fund balance of just $250, and an almost bankrupt situation.

"This September 30 we've got $4.6 million dollars," he added.

The Oct. 21 Village Council meeting also included a debate over a regional "road rally" vehicle procession of Donald Trump supporters slated to pass through the village at some point on Sunday, Oct. 25.

Ultimately it was the general consensus to have village officials contact the event's organizers (who it was said were difficult to reach) and attempt to have the vehicles get through town as quickly and safely as possible.

An earlier parade of Trump supporters that passed through Three Oaks yielded an Internet video of a woman standing in front of one of the vehicles on the main road through town as it stopped and started.

In the early going of the Oct. 21 meeting Pappa criticized Newquist for her reaction to that earlier procession, asking if she had anything to say "about your own antics at the last rally that was in town" in her front yard as vehicles passed by.

Newquist replied by saying "I was expressing my right to free speech just as they were expressing theirs."

Also at the beginning of the Oct. 21 session Grosse apologized for an incident that he said occurred during the Oct. 3 large-item pick-up day and described as "an ill-advised attempt at an inside joke that went terribly wrong, and a political sign was destroyed." He also said "there was no attempt to cause harm to anyone or to destroy any property," adding that he has apologized to the subject of the sign and the property owner.

"I want to especially thank the homeowner for the gracious way he handled this unfortunate incident," Grosse said.

A video of the incident appears to show a Tom Flint yard sign removed and eventually disposed of (Flint is a candidate for village president).

In other Oct. 21 business, the Three Oaks Village Council:

• Was reminded by Grosse that trick-or-treat hours in the village are 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.

• Reviewed an evaluation of Village Manager Dan Faulkner that gave him an overall average rating of 4.0 (on a 1 to 5 scale) from all seven council members in a variety of areas. A motion to give Faulkner a $3,000 bonus was OK'd by a 7-0 vote.

• Approved a three-year renewal (for $1) of the lease agreement with American Legion Post 204 regarding the Memorial Park field.

• Agreed to have a hollowed-out tree along North Elm Street removed by Wetlands Construction for $2,400.

• Approved the purchase of a new police vehicle from Three Oaks Ford and the ordering of a 2021 truck for the water and sewer department.

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