Royal Oak Commission to take up marijuana business ordinance

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — Following months of debate and planning, the Royal Oak City Commission is poised to decide on where marijuana businesses may locate in that city.

Officials are expected to take up the matter during a Zoom meeting Monday night in which there will be a second reading of a proposed ordinance for commercial marijuana establishments. Residents can call in and leave voice recordings of their support or concerns between 4-6 p.m. at (248) 246-3411. They also can monitor the meeting on their local cable TV channel or on the city’s website.

Recreational marijuana sales have been a controversial topic in the city for over a year, especially among critics who feel such establishments, despite being legal, are adult businesses that should not be permitted near schools, parks or residential neighborhoods. Voters in November 2018 approved recreational sales by a 56% to 44% margin.

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Potential eligible areas that have not raised concerns are in a 1-mile by a 1 1/2-mile industrial area in the city’s north end, north of 14 Mile Road and east of Woodward Avenue to Delemere.

“I object to any of the businesses being considered near residential areas,” said Councilman Randy LeVasseur, who feels there should be at least a 150-foot buffer area from neighborhoods, along with the 1,000-foot distance from churches, schools or parks used under the adult-business zoning ordinance.

LeVasseur had requested the city Planning Department draw up a map showing areas that meet that criteria but was told it could not be put on the agenda without the request of two other councilmembers.

“I have never heard that before,” said LeVasseur, acknowledging he could only find support from Councilmember Kim Gibbs.

Earlier this month, the commission voted to permit four still-to-be-determined locations — two in the industrial area and two on Woodward Avenue — for marijuana sales. City planners said the city could conceivably have up to 18 businesses, including along Woodward Avenue, between 10 Mile and 14 Mile roads, in the future.

Former City Attorney Charles Semchena said as a longtime resident, he has problems with the city considering locating pawn shops or  marijuana-related establishments in any number along the Woodward Avenue corridor.

“Residential neighborhoods already border traditional businesses along Woodward,” said Semchena, who lives near the major roadway. “This isn’t appropriate.”

“(The commission) shot down attempts to exclude Woodward or limit the stores to the light industrial zone only,” Semchena said. “They refused to use the benefits and protections of the adult business ordinance that provides the needed buffers and prohibits these types of business from clustering close to each other creating a slum.

“Unfortunately for us, the absence of this law allows a clear path for the marijuana store at the (site of former) Golden Basket Restaurant to be located next to the Pawn shop at former Joe’s Army/Navy. We can expect to see these scheduled for approval sometime after the final vote on July 27.”

A simple majority vote Monday night of the seven-member commission would finalize the ordinance.

(248) 338-0319