Business owners and residents push back against Stevensville pot ordinance

NOW: Business owners and residents push back against Stevensville pot ordinance

STEVENSVILLE, Mich. – The village of Stevensville received pushback from residents and business owners who are against the board’s decision to approve cannabis dispensaries from setting up shop on Red Arrow Highway.

“It’s a bell that you can’t un-ring,” said Mary Jo Tomasini, the Committee Chairperson for the Friends of Stevensville.

“It was almost a sneak attack,” said business owner David Boelcke.

The board approved the ordinance in November—allowing a total of two dispensaries—after a recent road assessment identified various maintenance projects the village would need to take on over the next 10 years.

As of 2021, each dispensary license brings a municipality about $60,000 from the state, and the village board believed several dispensaries would cover some of the projected $5 million cost.

“The idea is there are revenues to those types of licenses that we would apply to our roads program,” said Village President David Wenger.

But a local grass roots committee says the board’s approval is not what the people of Stevensville really want.

“They had a room full of people that were against it and they went ahead and passed it,” said Tomasini. “Even to have allowed us to vote on it would have been an appropriate next step.”

The Friends of Stevensville formed shortly after the ordinance was approved. The committee is not strictly anti-cannabis; the members have different reasons for not wanting dispensaries in or around the village.

“I have a business in downtown Stevensville, and it’s not the type of business I would want to rent to,” said Boelcke. “Some people are afraid businesses may move out if this type of business moves in.”

Tomasini added, “There’s currently like 14 retail operations within 12 miles, so we feel like there’s enough access and we don’t want one in the village of Stevensville.”

Others worried that having more dispensaries means the market will become oversaturated—which Wenger believed is a concern they’ve already worked to address.

“That’s why we chose to set the buffers in place that would limit it to two retail facilities,” he said.

The Friends of Stevensville filed a petition, and hope to put the ordinance on the ballot for voters during the next election.

If they block the plan, taxpayers will pick up the costs of the road repairs.

“We either use our general fund—we have an extremely healthy general fund, but I’d hate to deplete that,” said Wenger. “The other option is we could look to increase real estate taxes or do a road millage, which would fall on all residents of the village.”

The Friends of Stevensville said they just want the opportunity for citizens to decide.

“That was one of the major issues,” said Tomasini. “The people spoke, they didn’t listen and now we need to take it to the ballot.”

The village will have a meeting on Wednesday, December 14—and the Friends of Stevensville plan on attending to make their concerns heard.

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