Lawsuit begins after zoning decision stiffs rumored marijuana investors


By Simon Albaugh

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – On Tuesday, City Council went into a closed session to discuss “pending litigation” involving the City of Hamtramck. The lawsuit is based on a zoning board decision that struck down a zoning variance – the ability to use a plot of land for a separate purpose from what its allocated for. If the lawsuit moves forward, this could cost the city a huge sum of money.

No dollar figure has been explicitly mentioned, but Councilman Ian Perrotta says if the city loses this lawsuit, it could amount to hundreds of thousands in damages paid by the City of Hamtramck.

“It’s going to cost us a lot of money,” Perrotta said. “I mean, they’re going to probably sue us for the cost of the building, the improvements that they made and we’re probably going to be sued for lost profits.”

The decision to not grant the zoning variance was the result of rumors that the location seeking an appeal was intended to become an adult-use marijuana dispensary. City officials say that they aren’t made aware of what businesses will do when they invest in a Hamtramck location, so at this point there is no way of knowing what the business at 2024 Caniff Street will be doing with the location.

City Council Asks ZBA to Reconsider

Soon after the closed session, City Council voted to approve a resolution asking for the Zoning Board of Appeals to rescind their votes and approve the zoning variance. The resolution specifies that a meeting date should be made apparent by Monday.

The Zoning Board meeting decision on Nov. 12 shows that there may be trouble with getting the revote. In the meeting, the Zoning board heard dozens of comments from the public asking members to deny a request by Hosh Investments, LLC to change the zoning of 2024 Caniff to allow retail. However, both the chair of the Zoning Board and a City Attorney said that there would be no legal basis for denying company’s request, putting the city at-risk of dealing with expensive lawsuits.

“The only question in front of the ZBA tonight is if the property can be used for a permitted retail use… If the ZBA goes beyond that, then I think we’re exposing the city to unnecessary risk,” said John Jackson at the Nov. 12 meeting.

When it was time to move the decision to a vote, the discussion had already gone toward speculation about whether the location would become another marijuana dispensary. Although there is no way of knowing if the location is slated for adult-use marijuana, the representative from the investment firm was reluctant to answer what the location would be used for.

“I’ll just assume it’s a marijuana dispensary because of your refusal to answer,” said Nasr Hussain, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Yemeni American News could not reach Hussain in time for a comment on his decision.

When it was time to vote, one member abstained from making a decision. With one position empty after former member Carrie Beth Lasley’s position was not renewed, two members voting no and one abstaining, the motion to approve the zoning variance was unsuccessful. Now the assumption that a business would become a marijuana dispensary has already opened the city to a lawsuit.

Pleasantrees is a marijuana dispensary that recently opened in Hamtramck’s south end. 

Marijuana Dispensaries Are a Contentious Issue in Hamtramck

In an emergency meeting held on Nov. 17, the Hamtramck City Council began the process of opting-out of the adult-use Marijuana industry. The decision to exit the Marijuana Industry is late, to say the least, since Marijuana was officially decriminalized two years ago. Moving forward, City Attorney James Allen warned that efforts to opt-out now would expose the city to unnecessary litigation.

There’s already been one marijuana dispensary that opened in Hamtramck. According to executives involved with the company, they’re looking to be good corporate neighbors for the city, but critics from what appears to be a slight majority of the city don’t believe that a dispensary can bring any good to Hamtramck.

Over the past month, a majority of Public Comments have been made in an effort to sway the city toward either banning or allowing adult-use marijuana dispensaries. Those who are asking for the city to approve the marijuana industry’s involvement with Hamtramck say that the tax revenue is essential for a cash-strapped city like Hamtramck.

It’s beginning to look like most efforts to close the floodgates on a marijuana market will be difficult, moving forward. While proponents of both sides for this issue move forward, city officials have found themselves in a difficult position. They either need to allow unpopular business or expose the city to a number of hard-to-win lawsuits.