By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Ortonville— On Aug. 2, the village residents will have an ordinance on the ballot that would allow marijuana retail establishments in the village limits. Currently, the ordinance in the village does not allow retail establishments.
Back in 2018, residents of Michigan passed Proposal 18-1, which legalized recreational marijuana and recreation marijuana retail establishments. The proposal also authorized municipalities to completely prohibit marijuana establishments within their boundaries, and in February of 2019, the Ortonville village council voted to prohibit establishments.
Following that decision, the group Ortonville Residents for Action circulated a petition to get the measure on the ballot for residents to decide if establishments should be allowed. The petition that was circulated is public record and can be requested from the Brandon Township clerk’s office. Recently, residents have also received a survey in the mail from Ortonville Residents for Action asking what residents would like additional revenue from potential establishments to be used for.
“It was not sent by the village,” said village manager Ryan Madis. “Because we didn’t send it, we won’t see the responses whatsoever.”
According to the survey seven-out-of-ten of Ortonville voters voted to approve legalization of recreational marijuana in 2018. However, according to the Oakland County Clerk’s election results, there were 1,087 registered voters in the village of Ortonville during the November 2018 election when marijuana was legalized. Of those 1,087, voters 674 residents voted, or 62.01 percent of residents. Of those 674 voters, 435 voted to legalize marijuana, and 229 voted against legalization. 10 voters did not vote on that proposal. That means of the 1,087 registered voters in Ortonville at that time, about 40 percent of them approved of legalizing marijuana through Proposal 18-1.
Proposal 18-1 also included the language that authorized municipalities to prohibit establishments, as well as outlining how tax revenue would be distributed. The survey recently sent out to residents by Ortonville Residents for Action said that if approved, establishments in Ortonville were estimated to generate per year $120,000 for Ortonville, $120,000 for Oakland County, $129,000 for the School Aid Fund, $129,000 for the Transportation fund, and $220,000 in sales tax for the state.
“It’s hard to estimate how much revenue would be generated for the village, or other entities,” said Madis. “And the ordinance (on the upcoming ballot) doesn’t dictate what the money would be used for.”
According to Proposal 18-1, all marijuana retail establishments are subject to an excise tax of 10 percent of all sales. That means that on top of a regular Michigan six percent sales tax, there would be an additional 10 percent tax that would go to the Marihuana Regulation Fund. From that fund, the state divides that money as follows: 15 percent goes to the municipality that the establishment is in, 15 percent foes to the county the establishment is in, 35 percent goes to the School Aid Fund, and 35 percent foes to the Transportation fund for road improvement. It is uncertain where the survey got the estimated fund numbers, but these percentages are what Michigan state law dictates.
The ordinance on the August ballot outlines where in the village an establishment can be located, the application process, hours, number of establishments and more. If passed, the village council cannot change anything about the ordinance for three years, even things such as errors or inconsistencies. It also means that if state law changes pertaining to marijuana establishments within those three years, the village council cannot change it to be compliant with changes in state law.
“The village had zero hand in writing it, it was entirely written not by us,” said Madis. “We cannot fix any errors in the ordinance.”
While some regulation of the establishments is done by the state, the ordinance on the August ballot gives further stipulations for location. It calls for up to two establishments, operating no earlier than 7 a.m. and no later than 11 p.m., open to adults 21 years of age and older. It also allows delivery and a drive-thru window may be utilized. The ordinance sets up a scoring system if more than two establishments apply to open within the village limits that the villager manager, clerk, and council would use to score each applicant to choose two that may set up establishments.
Location wise, the proposed ordinance states that the establishments would have to be on a road that sees 20,000 cars per day, be a stand-alone building, not adjoin a residential district, be a minimum of 850 from a K-12 school, 1,000 feet from a licensed childcare facility, 2,000 feet from a park, and 500 feet from another marijuana establishment. Only those meeting these requirements would move on to a scoring state. Also, the proposed ordinance establishes an annual fee of up to $5,000 per applicant, which is the maximum allowed by state law.
“If passed, applications go live 45 days after the ordinance goes into effect,” said Madis. “There is an 18-month period for the applicant to work through building and zoning process, and they have to start construction six months after the building and zoning process is complete. They also have to have qualifications from the state before they can apply. It’s similar to liquor licenses, but it’s brand new.”
With the application process, building process, and state licensing, it could take upwards of a year before the village of Ortonville would see any revenue.
Also, if the ordinance is approved, it would create new tasks and responsibilities for the village staff, council, planning commission and possibly others in the community.
“The clerk has several timelines and documenting processes that must be adhered to closely to follow the ordinance, with repercussions if timelines are not followed,” said Madis. “The zoning administrator (currently the Village manager), Planning commission, and village council would be expected to review and approve site plans for each applicant. The building inspector and official would be called upon to review site plans, perform inspections, and comply with the additional standards laid out by the Michigan Regulation of Taxation of Marihuana Act in addition to the standard building code. It’s a lot more on the staff, village council, planning commission, and the village attorney.”
The only people voting on the proposed ordinance are residents of Ortonville, which is Brandon Township voting precinct 6, which votes at the Edna Burton Senior Center, 345 Ball St.. Any of those residents with questions can visit ortonvilletelevision.com to watch the two Ortonville Village Ballot Town Halls, one from June 22 and one from July 11, where residents were able to ask questions of the village attorney, manager, and council members.
“It’s the best capture of residents asking questions,” said Madis.
They can also call the village offices with questions, 248-627-4976. Anyone with questions about the election or the ballot can call the Brandon Township clerk’s office at 248-627-2851.
By Shelby Stewart-Soldan