Two new applicants were recommended to open medical marijuana dispensaries along East Grand River Avenue at the Feb. 13 meeting of the East Lansing Planning Commission, bringing the total to four dispensaries requesting a permit from the city council along that road.
Those four dispensaries are now in a showdown to see which one can secure a permit first, effectively barring the other applicants from setting up shop nearby under the city's dispensary distance requirements.
The chance to open on Grand River Avenue
Marijuana dispensaries are required — per East Lansing regulations — to be at least 1,000 feet from another dispensary or liquor store, meaning only one of the four applicants targeting East Grand River Avenue will receive a permit from the city.
DNVK 1, LLC requested to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 1100 E. Grand River Ave. That's right next door to ABCD Properties, LLC, which requested one for 1108 E. Grand River Ave.
ABCD Properties applied for a liquor license around the time they purchased the property, according to Planning and Zoning Administrator David Haywood. He said the developers still need to meet final conditions of the state approval process.
“It sounds like their liquor license is likely a go, pending those final conditions,” he said.
The law firm of Michael D. Stein, representing DNVK 1, sent a letter to the planning commission. In it, Stein alleges ABCD Properties intends to open a liquor store solely to prevent the opening of a competing dispensary.
In addition to DNVK 1 and ABCD, EL Grand, Inc., seeks a permit for 1054 E. Grand River Ave. All three have received the Planning Commission's recommendation.
CA-East Lansing, Inc., is also requesting a future recommendation from the commission for a dispensary at 1234 E. Grand River Ave.
If ABCD receives a liquor license, the other three parties' ability to open where they planned would be contingent upon the planning commission's recommendation to change the distance requirements.
Mayor Mark Meadows isn’t sure how the commission's recommended changes will be received by the city council. He said if the 1,000-foot distance requirement stays constant — and ABCD opens a liquor store — the council could not approve any provisioning center other than ABCD's.
“That really is a poison pill in that area with regard to other provisioning centers,” he said.
Pot shops with no property?
John Mucha, attorney for Valvoline, the current occupant of 1054 E. Grand River Ave., said Valvoline still has the rights to the property for a significant period of time and that any plans to open a dispensary at the location may be premature.
Mucha made a similar point last month when DNVK indicated their interest in the property. The company withdrew its request in the Jan. 23 planning commission meeting before submitting its current proposal for 1100 E. Grand River Ave.
He said EL Grand currently has no legal standing to construct a dispensary at that location, but added that Valvoline isn't completely against the idea of working out an agreement with EL Grand.
“There’s been no decision yet with regard to what Valvoline wants to do with that property,” Mucha said.
Commissioner John Cahill said because only one dispensary can operate within that 1,000-foot radius, it doesn't make sense for the commission to approve an applicant who doesn’t own the property.
“I think that’s crazy to go forward on that,” he said.
Commissioner Dale Downes didn’t let the dispute stop him from recommending EL Grand's application to the city council.
“By the same token, it’s really kind of hearsay,” he said. “We’ve never seen a leasing agreement. It’s all subject to a legal interpretation.”
Jerome Abood is a party of interest in EL Grand's proposed development. He said it’s not unusual for paperwork to be incomplete or for previous leasing agreements to still be in place during the permit process.
“Our intent is to complete the agreement with Valvoline,” he said.
If an agreement isn’t reached, then Abood will will withdraw the application.
Vice Chair Kathleen Boyle said if EL Grand is otherwise suited for a dispensary business, then the company shouldn't be denied a recommendation to the city council solely based on the lack of a leasing agreement.
The planning commission forwarded all permit requests for marijuana dispensaries to the city council in its meeting, but the battle for the pot shops' operation in East Lansing is far from over.
“That's the nature of the beast here,” Abood said. “The way the city issued the ordinance, it has been a little bit of a race.”
Other takeaways from the meeting
Green Peak Industries, LLC was also approved for a permit request, moving along in its effort to open a dispensary on West Road.
The transportation commission asked the developers to implement an 8-foot sidewalk on West Road and Coolidge Road in part because of the company, according to East Lansing senior planner Darcy Schmitt.