Filer approves medical marijuana moratorium

Sewer project contracts also discussed

FILER TOWNSHIP — There won’t be any place to legally purchase medical marijuana in Filer Township for at least the next six months.

The board of trustees approved a resolution declaring a moratorium on allowing any marijuana dispensaries within the township for a half of a year at its regular meeting held Thursday, Aug. 4.

It could be longer if the board decides to change its zoning ordinances. The planning commission will be considering the issue soon and will make a recommendation to the board.

Township attorney Richard Wilson said the smoke of confusion surrounding the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act still hasn’t cleared.

“The whole issue of medical marijuana in Michigan right now is so much up in the air,” Wilson said. “Nobody’s getting any solid opinions anywhere about what’s going to happen to this.”

According to Wilson, there have been two trial court decisions in Michigan that have found that the act, passed by voters in 2008, violates the federal drug law. Municipal employees could be found to be “conspiring” against the federal government for having a part in permitting marijuana dispensaries.

“Of course, this has all municipal employees running for cover,” Wilson said. “This is all up in the air. There’s so many balls juggling in the air, no one wants to take a stab at this one.”

The moratorium will “immediately forbid use of all property structures in the Charter Township of Filer as facilities for dispensing marijuana or cultivating marijuana plants for medical or any other purpose for a limited period of time until the zoning ordinance can be amended to address such facilities and operations.”

The board unanimously approved the moratorium with little discussion.

The township board also approved motions related to the proposed $4 million sewer project that would link Filer with the City of Manistee.

The original contract with the city had to be divided into three separate contracts. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program requested the contract be split into master, operating and wastewater agreements.

In addition to the creation of a Special Assessment District (SAD), which will have property owners kicking in money, obtaining loans from rural development is the other major funding mechanism for the project. Once the preliminary engineering report is finished, the project can be submitted to the program.

“We will not be eligible for any grants because this is a commercial district, not a residential district,” Wilson said. “What we will be looking for is a preliminary funding commitment from rural development to loan us the money. They’ll probably give us a preliminary interest rate. That will get locked in a little later down the process.”

The state’s USDA rural development office wanted the contract split to address such concerns of policy and procedures and the city’s collective bargaining status.

Once the project is complete, city workers will maintain the sewer system.

“We do not want to get ourselves in an unfair labor practice charge,” Wilson said. “I don’t see that ever happening. The city’s got the crew. The operating agreement says quite clearly that the city operates the system.”

The three contracts also look to the future, when sewer service could be extended to other areas besides the planned Downtown Development District (DDA) along U.S. 31.

“As long as we have unused capacity, we can expand this into Filer City … and Oak Hill,” Wilson said. “We can expand it into those areas with the city’s permission. If they have the capacity and we have the capacity, I don’t see why they would ever say no.”

The Manistee’s City Council will take a look at the issue at its Aug. 16 meeting. The city’s utility committee has already favorably reviewed it, according to city manager Mitch Deisch.

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