Saline Planners Grant Two Recommendations for Marijuana Dispensary on Mickey's Dairy Twist Site

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Plans for a marijuana dispensary at the current site of Mickey's Dairy Twist took to steps forward at the City of Saline Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.

With three commissioners absent, the planning commission voted 5-1 to conditionally recommend special land use and 5-1 to vote to recommend preliminary site plan approval for a medical marijuana dispensary at 751 W. Michigan Ave. Commissioner Dean Girbach voted no on both items.

Saline City Council is expected to consider both recommendations at its May 16 meeting.

Bonnie McComb purchased Mickey's Dairy Twist in 2017, sinking her life savings into the business. She told the planning commission she wants to retire and that AM & BH Industries, LLC has made a "generous" offer that will allow it.

"I want to spend a few good years enjoying my children and my grandchildren. They offered a generous amount - more than I would ever get for an ice cream shop. I feel that it was a gif from God so that I could retire without worries and spend time with my family and enjoy my retirement," McComb told the planning commission during public comment.

Most of the people who spoke during public comment and the public hearing spoke against the the proposed development. During public comment, 15 people spoke or head their messages read by Clerk Terri Royal. Only four advised the planning commission to approve the plans. Nine residents asked planners to vote against the recommendation. A couple of other speakers were less clear about their wishes.

Gaines Collins, who lives on the west side, said she thought replacing a family-friendly ice cream parlor with a dispensary would leave Saline with a terrible westside gateway to the community.

Ben Goodman said he thought the dispensary wouldn't be harmonious with the neighborhood. He said many families walk in the areas. He noted there was a daycare in the plaza behind the location. He said the curb cuts were such that it would lead to dangerous situations.

Board of Education President Jennifer Steben, in a comment read by Royal, also said she's heard from several citizens and that she shares their concern about the proposal.

People also expressed disappointment about losing their beloved ice cream shop. Others expressed concerns about crime, drug addiction and unsavory characters.

But others, including Dan Kolander, owner of Dan's Downtown Tavern, said that McComb deserves the right to sell her property and retire.

"I know the whole story. I know what she's gone through in her six years in business. The first year, she had to replace the whole roof. The second year, she had to put in an HVAC system. Then she had a a good year and COVID hit. So along comes this offer that allows Bonnie, at 68 years old, to finally be able to retire and spend some time with her grandchildren and family," Kolander said in a comment read by Royal. "If people miss Mickey's so bad, then buy the equipment and keep it rolling. But I ask the board to please allow this transaction to be approved."

Ultimately, many of the public comments were outside of the purview of the planning commission. Expecting a heavy public response, City Manager Colleen O'Toole began the meeting by explaining the role of the planning commission.

"This body is primarily charged with reviewing and considering whether requests meet the requirements of existing city ordinances. This body typically considers things like site plan reviews and the land use impacts of those. Members of the planning commission are statutorily required to make these reviews free from prejudice - meaning,  regardless of any personal sentiments about the end use of that development," O'Toole said.

She also noted that the final decision isn't made by the commission. The commissioners merely recommend site plans and land use permits to the city council, which has the final say.

AM & BH Industries LLC plans to covert the 1350-square-foot ice cream parlor into a medical marijuana dispensary that would have about 25 employees. No more than five would work at a time. In addition, the company plans to tear down the adjoining home and convert that lot into parking and landscaping.

After the public comment, planning consultant Mike Auerbach, of Carlisle Wortman and Associates, began reviewing the application for the special land use and preliminary site plan application. Auerbach noted that the applicant's decision to withdraw its proposal for curbside pickup eased many concerns. There were questions about parking and stormwater runoff, and traffic counts, but the proposal seemed to fit the space.

"It is comparable to other commercial uses in the area," Auerbach said, in terms of appearance and character.

In terms of the special land use permit, one issue raised in public comment seemed to give commissioners pause - the issue of the nearby daycare. The city's marijuana dispensary ordinances do not permit a cannabis business within 1000 feet of a school. Does the daycare count as a school, Girbach asked?

That answer was no, according to city attorney Tom Forshee.

"The daycare center does not meet our definition of school as it is defined in our ordinance," Forshee said.

He said the ordinance was carefully crafted to define schools as developmental kindergarten and K-12 schools.

"Daycares are not included as schools, so this daycare would not create a buffer," Forshee said.

Girbach also had an issue with asphalt around the property, saying it appeared too close to adjacent properties and was in violation of setback ordinances. Auerbach said it appeared to be in compliance with setback rules, but that the matter would be addressed during final site plan approval

Another issue that came up was stormwater. Tearing down the home for more asphalt could create stormwater issues. Adrienne Young, acting chair of the commission for the meeting, said she'd like to see that issue addressed as a condition of preliminary site plan approval. Mayor Brian Marl agreed, as did Girbach. It looked as if the site plan approval might get delayed for 2-4 weeks due to Girbach's uneasiness with the stormwater issue but Auerbach and O'Toole said the stormwater/drainage issues are typically dealt with during site plan approval. Girbach withdrew his motion to postpone the vote.

Mayor Marl told concerned citizens they'd "get another bite at the apple" at the May 16 city council meeting if they wanted to voice their concerns. In addition, Marl said, the final site plan approval process was more rigorous.

Commissioners Dan Carroll, Bill Beardsley and Dan Troyka were absent.

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