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Presque Isle County allows pot shops

ROGERS CITY — The Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners on Friday agreed to allow recreational marijuana establishments in the county.

The vote only applies to townships within the county that use the county’s zoning rules, and marijuana businesses could only open in townships that allowed such shops. The county oversees zoning for Bearinger, Belknap, Bismark, Case, Metz, Moltke, North Allis, Ocqueoc, Posen, Pulawski, and Rogers townships.

Rogers City has prohibited pot shops within its boundaries. Onaway has allowed limited types of marijuana businesses and Rogers Township is considering allowing recreational marijuana businesses.

Still, Friday’s decision marks the largest region in Northeast Michigan to allow recreational marijuana businesses after voters in November legalized the drug. Several local governments, including Alpena and Alpena Township, have prohibited pot shops — at least for for the time being.

Presque Isle County’s ordinance was amended to allow retail stores and microbusinesses in the county’s business districts, as well as its agricultural and manufacturing districts.

Recreational marijuana can also be grown, processed, transported, and tested in the county, within the county’s agricultural and manufacturing districts.

County Building and Zoning Official Mike Libby said the amendments mirror the county’s medical marijuana regulations.

“It’s our understanding the state is going to start issuing licenses Nov. 1, so we wanted to get something on record,” he said. “Otherwise, we have no control at all.”

Libby previously told The News the county is not allowed to determine how many recreational marijuana establishments could be allowed in each municipality. He said that would be up to each city or township.

Rogers Township’s Meds Cafe, a medical marijuana store, is currently the only marijuana business operating in the region, and is now interested in growing medical marijuana. Business partners Scott Schroeder and Michael Atkins have already purchased property for growing.

Rogers Township resident Marvin Fleming told the Presque Isle County board on Friday he owns property on Quade Highway, next to the property where Schroeder and Atkins want to grow marijuana. Fleming said the law states a pole barn on that property is supposed to be 10 feet from the property line, but is seven feet, four inches from the property line.

Fleming asked commissioners why that was grandfathered in when Schroeder and Atkins purchased the property. Libby said the building was built a few years ago with a permit and an error was made in citing the building.

“I’m not sure what the recourse on the previous owner is,” he said.

Schroeder told The News in a separate interview that, as far as he knows, the property is within zoning guidelines and he and his partner are working with township and county officials to obtain a special-use permit for the facility.

“Whatever it takes, we’ll do it to get open,” he said. “But, according to what I know, we’re within all zoning guidelines.”

Commissioner Mike Darga said that mistake would have occurred under a previous building and zoning official.

Darga asked whether Fleming had ever complained about the pole barn before. Libby said there was nothing in Fleming’s file to indicate he did.

Commissioners expressed concerns about whether setbacks spelled out in the amended ordinance would prevent a house from being constructed on property if a marijuana establishment was built first.

The amended ordinance states recreational marijuana establishments in the business district must be 50 feet away from any residence, school, or church, and that marijuana establishments in the agricultural and manufacturing districts must be located 500 feet from the nearest residence, school, or church.

“Every one of these establishments require special-use permits, so the surrounding property owners would be aware of it before it was granted,” Libby said.

He added the ordinance could always be amended again in the future.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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