BERRIEN SPRINGS — A medical marijuana growing facility may soon be open on Shawnee Road near the Central County Senior Center. Oronoko Township Planning Commissioners heard about the project Tuesday as they got a first look at the proposed site plan.
There will be no public hearing on the project because it is a permitted use under state medical marijuana caregiver laws. Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to accept the site plan at their March 5 meeting.
The township has opted out of allowing medical marijuana and recreational marijuana businesses, but it cannot control medical marijuana grown by caregivers. In the case of this project, the planning commission can approve the site plan, set hours of operation and make sure it is the only use being made of that building.
The medical marijuana growing facility is being proposed by Dan Van Treese, who has set up similar operations in other parts of the country. The facility will be in the former Exquisite Homes office building on Shawnee Road, behind the senior center.
Exquisite Homes owner Jason Hippler said his business is in the process of relocating to the former Erhard Furniture building on M-139 in the next few months.
Van Treese said the Shawnee Road building will be the home of a grow operation. It will be leased to a licensed caregiver raising plants for five patients. State law allows there to be 12 marijuana plants per patient in such a facility. He said the building will be locked down and secured and security cameras and other upgrades will be in place.
“I’ve been doing this for five years across the country,” Van Treese said. “It takes time for municipalities to be educated. The caregiver is there only when he needs to care for the plants and the patients, are there only when the caregiver is. New patients are not going to show up at the door.”
Township attorney Robert Landgraf said the 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law allows for caregivers to operate anywhere, regardless of zoning districts or local laws. He said the planning commission can rule on whether the site plan meets safety and health requirements outside of medical marijuana considerations.
“You’re not welcoming marijuana but doing what the law says,” he said.
Van Treese said there are no plans to change anything on the site including the floor plan beyond making security upgrades. He agreed to proposed hours of operations of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week and said he would submit a more detailed site plan.
Also Tuesday, commissioners held a public hearing and voted on a request from resident Amada Algandar to expand her home daycare operation on Greenfield in the Kephart area. Three people spoke out against her proposal, listing concerns about extra traffic, property values, septic systems and security.
Commissioners denied Algandar’s request, citing not only the concerns raised by residents, but also the fact that an adult foster care home is located within 200 feet of her home. State law doesn’t prohibit a licensed daycare being that close to an adult foster care home or similar facility, but does allow municipalities to take it into consideration.