Hamtramck Zoning Board of Appeals Dodges Lawsuit for the City
By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – In last week’s City Council Meeting, Mayor Karen Majewski called a vote on whether to allow a closed session to take place at the end of the City Council Meeting “because we have a lawsuit,” Mayor Majewski said.
Before the vote on the closed session was tallied, Councilmember Ian Perrotta asked if it had anything to do with the Zoning Board’s decision. Mayor Majewski said yes.
An emergency meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals was called for yesterday at 5:00pm. Per the request of Hamtramck’s City Council, the Zoning Board of Appeals has revisited the question of whether 2040 Caniff Street should be legally allowed to operate as a retail location.
At the previous meeting, the Zoning Board just missed a two-thirds majority that was necessary to approve a zoning variance. Along with member Eric Anderson who abstained from the vote, Mark Hausner, Adam Alharbi, and Nasr Hussain voted against the zoning variance. Most said it was based on the idea that this property would become a marijuana dispensary.
As a result of the previous decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Board had the pressure of community members’ distaste over marijuana dispensaries, along with a looming lawsuit that may have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of this decision.
Owners of this building requested a Temporary Restraining Order against the City of Hamtramck over the ZBA decision.
Court Documents Show 2024 Caniff is intended to be a Dispensary
Court documents obtained by the Yemeni American News shows that City Clerk August Gitschlag formally acknowledged that Hamtramck did not have any Marijuana Ordinance at the time of signing. This allowed Quality Roots, a marijuana provisioning center corporation, to be in accordance with the state’s Marijuana Laws. Quality Roots got this acknowledgment back in late January of this year in what’s known as an attestation.
In the case of marijuana businesses, they need to get this attestation in order to allow municipalities to express their stance on the state marijuana law. And since there was no marijuana ordinance in place, the City Clerk was legally obligated to sign it.
“I had no choice but to sign these,” Gitschlag said. “Until the Council puts an ordinance in place, I have to sign them… otherwise these businesses can sue me.”
He says that around 8 businesses have approached him for an attestation but warns that it’s unlikely that all eight fully intend to operate in Hamtramck.
Some City Officials initially have said that they were not made aware of the first Marijuana Dispensary that opened on Holbrook Avenue. The formal acknowledgment copied in the lawsuit shows that their not knowing about the dispensary may not be altogether truthful.
“I think that is an unfair and sort of disrespectful thing when we should all be working together on this in an open and transparent manner,” said Eric Anderson, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. “So it’s unfortunate when we have to learn about the full details of a case that’s in front of us by reading a lawsuit that was filed.”
In the proceeding discussion of the Zoning variance, members of the public asserted their stance against Marijuana Dispensaries. Meanwhile, Hamtramck City Attorney James Allen asked everyone to consider the weight of this decision, saying there’s a strong likelihood that this case will be a major blow to the city’s budget.
“Nobody likes the litigation,” Allen said. “Nobody’s going to like to get a judgment levy put on their taxes. I know that there’s some members of this board who lobbied against tax increases, but make no mistake, this case is lost. Whether I’m involved or another firm’s involved, there will be a judgment levy that’s put on the taxes.”
Pleasantrees was the first Marijuana Provisioning Center to Open in Hamtramck
Zoning Board of Appeals Reverses Decision, City Council Keeps Course
During this round of voting, only one member, Nasr Hussain, voted against allowing the zoning variance. With more than two-thirds vote, the zoning variance was granted.
At next week’s City Council meeting, one Councilmember confirmed that the second reading of the Marijuana Prohibition Ordinance will remain on the meetings’ Agenda. Although City Council voted unanimously to ask the Zoning Board of Appeals to reconsider their decision, it’s likely that the ordinance will still move forward as planned.
With eight other marijuana businesses already having expressed interest in a Hamtramck-based operation, it’s unclear what this lawsuit could show others who may have already invested in buildings within the city.
“The city attorney, for reasons different than folks who oppose this now, doesn’t like recreational marijuana because it always leads to this kind of a mess,” said James Allen, City Attorney for Hamtramck.