Ruling gives green light to Pontiac marijuana development

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

A holdup with the city of Pontiac regarding a proposed medical marijuana complex appears to be resolved after an Oakland County Circuit Court judge ruled that the property is appropriately zoned for the venture.

Construction is expected to begin in the next two months on the nearly $40 million Glenwood Plaza development, said Joseph Brown, principal of the investment firm Rubicon Capital. Plans for the plaza, on the site of a former Kmart complex on South Glenwood, call for a grocery store and a secure medical marijuana park with eight cultivation and processing tenants.

Manni Ferraiuolo of Rubicon Capital, stands in front of closed store front at the Glenwood Plaza talking about the upcoming development of the property.

“This was a big win for us,” Brown said. “That was the biggest hurdle that we had.”

At issue was the interpretation of a local zoning ordinance. Interim City Clerk Garland Doyle has said the ordinance didn’t allow for the licensing of medical marijuana businesses at the site. The developer contended it did, citing a January 2020 conditional rezoning that would change it from local business to corridor commercial and light manufacturing.

Doyle said last fall that because of an overlay district, which the city put in place after the passage of the medical marijuana ordinance, the project would not be allowed at the site unless the ordinance were revised.

But Judge Yasmine Poles ruled last week that based on the conditional rezoning agreement, the plaintiffs and “any future property owners and lessees/occupants may develop the subject properties to include medical marijuana grower and processor facilities and a food market.”

Anne McClorey McLaughlin, the attorney representing Pontiac, declined to comment Monday. Doyle did not return messages left seeking comment.

Brown said the judgment means Rubicon can get the financing it needs for the project. The first step is to build a grocery store as a community benefit. Brown said he expects the store to be complete around May 2022. 

The store would front the development that would potentially house tenants Southfield-based Pharmaco Inc. and Bingham Farms-based Family Rootz. Those companies must go through their own approval processes with the city of Pontiac, which is already underway, Brown said.

Poles ordered that the city issue preliminary approval of all pending applications for grower and processor licenses and permits for Pharmaco Inc, and Family Rootz “necessary for the continued processing of those applications in accordance with the provisions of the City of Pontiac Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Ordinance.”

Jim Allen, an attorney representing Rubicon Capital, said he doesn’t expect there to be an issue with the city moving forward.

"They've done the honorable thing and admitted the facts that had to be admitted ..." Allen said. "They had to admit that the conditional rezoning agreement was a valid agreement. It was signed, it was properly passed by the council. They had to agree that the conditional zoning agreement said what it clearly said."

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN