2018-03-11 / Front Page

Marijuana debate heats up in Almont

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

ALMONT — An Almont Township woman who used to live in the village is trying to push village council members to reject allowing marijuana businesses in the village or at the very least restrict it to one provisioning center in the village’s industrial park.

In November Almont Village Council members voted 4-3, with Mary “Wez” Ligon, Melinda Steffler and Tim Dyke dissenting, to “opt in” to the provisions of the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA). Six days later the Almont Township Board voted unanimously to “opt out.”

That left Almont and the City of Lapeer the only communities in Lapeer County considering allowing allow any or all of the five marijuana related businesses allowed under the act — dispensaries, growers, processers, testing facilities and transporters. However, before the Village of Almont began drafting a zoning ordinance to regulate businesses allowed under MMFLA village officials voted to mail out surveys to 2,534 registered voters, property owners and business owners in the village to gauge community support for the various types of businesses.

Alfonsi came to the council’s Feb. 20 meeting arguing against most marijuana related businesses. She came back Tuesday with more than a dozen people, both village and township residents opposed to marijuana.

She said she came to the meeting to “reason with the council to see things our way.” Alfonsi called the four people who spoke in favor of marijuana businesses at the council meeting “plants.”

“I love this little town,” she said, adding, “I think the village council should be dissolved…what are they trying to do, turn this into Eight Mile?” Alfonsi came to the meeting armed with handouts from Mobilizing Michigan – Protecting Our Kids From Marijuana and No2Pot.org.

Alfonsi is concerned about increased crime and drug use in the village.

Village Councilman Dave Love said opting in “doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything. It just keeps the door open.”

Love said the meeting’s public comment time “went on and on and on.” He said opponents and proponents of marijuana sales spoke for 90 minutes.

He said that while he’s leaning toward approval, he was to see what the survey results are before he makes a final decision.

Village Manager Mike Connors said the surveys were sent out March 1 and of the 178 verified returns as of Tuesday, 67 percent were opposed to marijuana sales. He said people have until the end of the month to complete the survey and then it will take another couple of weeks to verify and tabulate the results.

Village President Steve Schneider described his interaction with Alfonsi as “intense.” He said, “She made allegations based on rumor not facts.”

Schneider said that while he likes Alfonsi, who lived in the village for 26 years before moving to the township, “I have a real problem with her making the inference that we’re somehow corrupt.”

He said Alfonsi lectured council members on conflict of interest and then demanded to know if council members had financial interests that would create a conflict of interest. Schneider said he refused to answer her question because “it was public time, not interrogation time.”

Schneider said he plans to make a formal statement at the council’s March 20 meeting pointing out that while the building his law office is located in is up for sale, he doesn’t own the building and won’t benefit from its sale.

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