Potential marijuana biz spurs debate in Laingsburg

The former Klotz Floors and Cabinetry building, 105 E. Grand River Road, is shown. Plans to develop the space previously fell through, city officials said, though a new developer is reportedly interested in converting the space into a marijuana retail storefront.

LAINGSBURG — Laingsburg’s Downtown Development Authority joined the city’s Planning Commission Monday in unanimously recommending the city council conduct a public hearing before reopening the application period for its available marijuana retail license.

Officials say a new developer is interested in purchasing the vacant Klotz Floors and Cabinetry building, 105 E. Grand River Road, with the intent of opening a marijuana retail storefront. The city previously granted a marijuana retail license to a different developer at the site in 2020, though the sale of the building ultimately fell through.

Laingsburg’s marijuana ordinance currently allows two retail licenses, with Local Roots Cannabis, 120 W. Grand River Road, holding one of those. John Liskey, who owns the building that houses Local Roots, would like the city council to conduct a public hearing before considering additional retail applications.

“The significance of having public input on whether to open the application period is due to the fact that I have heard that many downtown businesses oppose a second marijuana store,” Liskey wrote in an Aug. 26 letter to the DDA. “If no public hearing is held and the council opens the application period and an entity submits an application that complies with all of the ordinance requirements, there would be little that could be done to prevent a second store from being built, regardless of the viewpoints of many downtown businesses.”

Applications are currently closed under a resolution passed by the city council in July 2020. At the time, the council voted to extend its marijuana license application period through Dec. 31, 2020. No action has been taken to reopen the application period, though city Clerk/Treasurer Paula Willoughby indicated Monday no such action is explicitly required under the marijuana ordinance.

“It seems like a reasonable request,” DDA member Sharon Woods said. “We’re not making a decision other than supporting the Planning Commission’s recommendation to allow some public input.”

The Laingsburg City Council approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana businesses in November 2019, and voted to allow recreational marijuana facilities in December 2019. At the time, the city agreed to issue licenses for processing, provisioning (retail), secure transport and safety compliance.

The council expanded its recreational facilities ordinance to allow for up to two microbusinesses — in which an owner can grow, process and sell up to 150 plants from the same building — in February 2020, increasing the number of retail establishments allowed within the city limits to four.

The move drew opposition from some area residents business owners earlier this year, with many expressing their belief four marijuana storefronts is too many in Laingsburg.

The DDA passed a motion in February this year to recommend the city council remove the microbusiness use, and cap the number of retail licenses at two. The council in March voted 5-2 to eliminate the use and reduce the number of retail licenses to two.

Mayor Micheal Culpepper Monday acknowledged the renewed interest in developing the Klotz Building as a marijuana retail establishment, though he expressed mixed feelings on the potential development.

“I’m not pro or con either way,” he said, “but I look at it as if we don’t, that building could set there for years and nothing ever be done with it; if we do, then it creates havoc amongst people. But marijuana’s legal.”

“Again, we’re not deciding whether to approve to disapprove a second business. All we’re doing is supporting the planning commission on a recommendation to city council to allow a public hearing for public input,” Woods replied. “In my view, anything that allows the stakeholders and the general public to contribute and weigh in more than just having public comment for a few minutes, I generally advocate for that.”

The city council’s next meeting is slated for 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at city hall, 114 S. Woodhull Road. For more information, visit laingsburg.us.

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