Marijuana

LAINGSBURG — The Laingsburg City Council will seek more public input before making a decision on whether to reopen the city’s application period for a single remaining available marijuana retail license.

Council members voted unanimously Monday to set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Oct. 4 at the LSW Emergency Services building, 7425 Woodbury Road. The hearing comes at the recommendation of the city’s Downtown Development Authority and Planning Commission.

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. John Liskey, who owns the building that houses Local Roots, previously asked the council to conduct a public hearing before considering additional retail applications.

Twenty-seven area business operators have signed a petition opposing a second retail establishment.

“(A second storefront) would bring money into Laingsburg, that is important, but for me it’s what do the people really want,” Council member Gail Geasler said Monday. “I do think this idea of seeing what the people want is a good idea, to take our time to make this decision because I do think it changes a little bit of the characteristics of our town.”

Council member Brian Fredline, while admittedly in support of competition and economic expansion, agreed a public hearing would be the best route moving forward, motioning to schedule the hearing for Oct. 4.

Marijuana licensing applications are currently closed under a resolution passed by the city council in July 2020 when the the council extended its license application period through Dec. 31, 2020. No action has been taken to reopen the application period, though city Clerk/Treasurer Paula Willoughby indicated in August no such action is explicitly required under the marijuana ordinance.

Attorneys representing Liskey and the Klotz Building developer offered varying opinions on the state of the current application deadline passed by resolution.

Attorney Jose Brown, representing Liskey, advised the city to not reopen its application period, asserting that by doing so, it would be demonstrating favor toward one specific applicant.

“I can understand the city council wanting to bring in new businesses for the city, but this is not the way it should be done,” Brown said. “To me that doesn’t look good from a political standpoint and legally I’m not sure that that could be done without city council taking some affirmative steps to open up the time period.

“You’ve already come up with a deadline; the deadline was not satisfied,” he continued. “That time period is closed. I don’t think you can undo the time period now for one person.”

Attorney Joshua Covert, representing the proposed developer, questioned the validity of the existing resolution that set the application deadline.

“Resolutions are limited to a temporary nature with ministerial duties, having to do with how the city itself governs, not necessarily the broader implications of who gets these licenses,” Covert said. “I don’t know that you even need to do anything because I don’t know that those resolutions really impact the ordinance because of the nature in which they were put together.

“My client is ready to go, has put resources into the project, and now he’s being told there’s this resolution that may prevent the city from considering his application,” Covert continued. “I think there’s certainly things that could be litigated. We’d rather not go that route. We’d rather open up a business and continue forward, but that’s kind of what we’re left with potentially if this application isn’t actually considered by the city.”

Covert acknowledged the cap of two retail licenses was set by the city for a reason, to provide for competition and ultimately benefit the consumers of Laingsburg. If nothing else, he said he’d like to see the application period reopened.

“It might be nice to see what our lawyers think,” Council member Dave Rhodabeck said, expressing support for the public hearing.

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