Traverse City News and Events

Acme Talks Recreational Marijuana, Horse Shows Expansion

By Beth Milligan | June 23, 2021

Acme Township is one step closer to allowing recreational marijuana businesses to open in the community, with planning commissioners voting last week to send a proposed recreational ordinance to township trustees for approval. Planning commissioners also asked trustees to take a closer look at the Traverse City Horse Shows property at Flintfields, citing concerns that expansion projects underway at the site haven’t gone through a required township approval process and could impact traffic and residences in the area.

Recreational Marijuana
Acme could soon allow a variety of recreational marijuana businesses to operate if trustees approve the draft ordinance unanimously backed by planning commissioners last week. The new rules offer the most flexibility in Acme’s warehouse and processing zoning district, allowing up to three licenses each to be distributed to growers, processors, secure transporters, retailers, and safety compliance facilities. Those uses would be allowed by right in the district. Acme would also allow one retail store to operate by right in the commercial corridor district.

Up to two growers and two processors would also be allowed in the agricultural district, but those businesses would require a special use permit. Several rules are outlined for those businesses in the district, including requiring anyone entering the facilities to be at least 21, keeping cultivation and processing operations non-visible from the outside within structures that are secured and always locked, setting all structures and parking back at least 100 feet from all property lines, and not using any equipment that creates noise, dust, vibration, fumes, odors, or electrical interference beyond the parcel boundary.

Growers and processors in the agricultural district also must submit a waste disposal plan approved by the local health department, refrain from any outdoor storage of materials, and install landscaping buffers if the facility is next to a residential dwelling or district. “Acme Township desires to allow all legal businesses to operate in the township,” the ordinance states, “but recognizes the need to zone for the use to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the general public.”

The number of recreational licenses available in each category matches the number of medical licenses that are already legal in Acme Township and were distributed by lottery in 2018. That might help Acme Township avoid legal issues plaguing The City of Traverse City, where city officials allowed up to 13 medical retail licenses but only four recreational retail licenses. That disparity prompted lawsuits from multiple companies who invested on the medical side with the expectation of being able to expand into recreational sales. Acme Township Planning Commission Chair Karly Wentzloff anticipates medical businesses will similarly be eager to get their hands on recreational licenses when they’re available in Acme.

“A lot of people hedged their bets that if they had an existing (medical) permit, they’d have recreational down the road,” she says. “I think that’s why they went so hard for medical.”

Horse Shows
Significant expansion work underway at Flintfields raised concerns among Acme Township planning commissioners last week after staff said construction was happening without proper approvals from the township or other regulatory agencies. Planning commissioners voted to declare the expansion project a major amendment to Traverse City Horse Shows’ special use permit – meaning a several-month process is ahead for the event organizer to obtain approval for development changes already underway – and asked township trustees to investigate the site for potential permit violations.

Documents submitted to the township show Flintfields’ boundaries are expanding by more than 32 acres to the north and south, with new development to include an expanded arena, parking area, and campground. Township Planning and Zoning Administrator Lindsey Wolf said the site was already “basically fully developed” and cited concerns ranging from increased 24-hour traffic connected to a new campground to horse manure being stored near property lines to a lack of inspections for stormwater systems. “We’re not exactly sure of what’s out there at this point in time,” she said, saying the township was unclear on the full details of new construction work as well as whether previously approved projects were built to specification or had been changed during development.

Township officials cited a willingness to work with Traverse City Horse Shows – which has been a major economic driver for the region – but expressed frustration over what they said was a pattern of expansion followed by belated applications for approval. “It started out as a small project with limited days per year, and it just keeps growing and growing and growing,” said Planning Commission Vice Chair Dan Rosa. “I think we're losing control of it, and I don't know how long the people that live out there near it are going to continue to tolerate it.” Resident Jim Goran highlighted the event’s positive contributions to Acme in a letter to the township, but shared similar concerns about growth impacts. “It is time the expansion comes with a plan on how to handle the increasing dangerous traffic pattern at M-72 and Bates…it is a huge issue during Horse Show weeks,” he wrote.

Township attorney Jeff Jocks said there are “levels of enforcement” the board of trustees could consider if they did find violations, ranging from civil infractions all the way up to shutting down “the entire operation.” A middle ground could be “an injunction against any further use or construction” in the expanded sections of the property until permits and approvals are resolved, Jocks said. Representatives from Traverse City Horse Shows and Mansfield Land Use Consulting – which provides land use consulting services to the event – did not return a request for comment.

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