Board OKs Pot Ordinance
75 Barker Road Fire Hall Value Jumps 27%
Fed-Up Treasurer Calls for Firing Manager & Planner
Residents Pack Meeting
Calling All Volunteers

Nov. 12, 2019 Township Board Meeting Report
By David Gordon

Downtown Pot Shops Permitted

The Board of Trustees last night adopted a Marijuana Ordinance that allows a limited number of pot shops downtown, micro-businesses in the rural district and larger grower/processor operations in areas zoned for industry.

The ordinance passed 6/1 and [updated] will go into effect December 21.

Last-minute changes needed to be made to the ordinance allowing pot shops downtown. Treasurer Lenore Zelenock said she was frustrated that Planner Paul Lippens (who was absent) hadn’t alerted the Board downtown pot shops had been omitted from the ordinance language.

Manager Steven Aynes was tasked with drafting an business application for pot entrepreneurs by the Nov. 26 meeting and was criticized for not having it ready for this meeting.

Are Downtown Property Values About to Skyrocket?

One immediate impact of the ballot proposal was a big bump in the value for the township’s old fire station at 75 Barker Road.

A buyer last week offered $275,000 but after the vote Nov. 5 allowing pot shops downtown, a second buyer offered $350,000 (a 27% increase and $75,000 above the asking price). Both buyers may be planning to open pot shops and now appear engaged in a bidding war.

The Board postponed a decision on the 75 Barker sale. Some Trustees said that, in light of this exciting increase in property values, it might be wise to reconsider plans to sell the majority of the VanCurler property (now known as North Village). The Board is negotiating to sell 18 of the 23 acres to developers for housing, leaving only five acres for a waterfront park.

Off with Their Heads! Treasurer Wants to Axe Manager & Planner

“It’s time to fire people,” said Zelenock near the end of the four-hour meeting. “Because come 2020, we’re going to get fired (by the voters). I am appalled that three years into this administration, (Manager Steven Aynes) still can’t get our agendas right,” she said.

Zelenock also said the Board should find a different planner. “The planner is making too many unforced errors and I’m tired of it,” she said after the meeting. She laid out the timeline and series of events leading to the omission in the marijuana ordinance of pot shops downtown, asking “how are we going to hold our paid professionals accountable?”

Residents Speak Up!

Nearly 50 pro and anti-pot “activists” packed the second floor and many spoke at the “First Call to the Public” which lasted more than 45 minutes. It was obvious the Nov. 5 ballot proposal vote changed few minds though it did show that pro-pot is the majority opinion.

Mary Devlin, a long-time resident and frequent speaker at Board meetings, announced this would be her last appearance. She said she was disappointed with the ballot proposal turnout, upset with the outcome and exhausted by her efforts. (We hope you feel better and return soon, Mary. You will be missed.)

Northfield Township Wants You!

Supervisor Chockley announced that there are multiple openings on various township boards and committees, as follows:

Land Preservation Committee – 3 openings
Downtown Development Authority – 3 openings
Planning Commission – 2 openings
Parks & Recreation Committee – 1 or more

Contact Chockley. Office: (734) 449-2880, ext. 15 * Cell: (734) 730-0795 * This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Rest of the Story

Northfield Joins Select Group of Townships

As of October, four of ten Michigan municipal governments have opted out of allowing pot stores even though their residents voted to legalize recreational pot, according to (Maybe that 40% should hold ballot proposals too.)

Because of the Nov. 5 ballot proposal supporting pot businesses, Northfield joined a select group opting in. Adopting an ordinance to regulate where and how many pot businesses operate in the township was undertaken with the knowledge that the majority of its citizens approve.

Prior to the vote, the Board was divided but still favored “opting in” 4/3. The minority of Chockley, Clerk Kathy Manley and Trustee Tawn Beliger joined with a citizen group, “Save Northfield”, that collected enough signatures to force a ballot proposal.

Before the final vote on the pot ordinance, Trustee Janet Chick moved to re-insert the omitted ordinance language allowing pot shops downtown. Her motions passed 4/3 with Chockley, Manley and Beliger opposed.

At the final vote, Chockley and Manley overcame their personal opinions, respected the ballot proposal results and voted in favor of the ordinance. Beliger did not.

Beliger spent more than 15 minutes making numerous motions in an attempt to block pot shops downtown and to prohibit all marijuana in the rural area. “Do I need to get down on my knees and beg the township Board?” she said. Chockley “seconded” all the motions which were all defeated on 4/3 votes.

The Board agreed to temporarily exclude four types of marijuana businesses - temporary events, temporary event organizer, excess growers & designated consumption establishments - until the final adoption of the ordinance.

Chockley tried to mandate that pot businesses donate to local charities. Her idea was rejected. She also wanted to dictate that medical and recreational businesses “co-locate” in the same building, but that idea was rebuffed.

Trustee Jacki Otto suggested hiring a part-time employee to handle pot applications but her idea was deemed premature. Trustee Wayne Dockett and Zelenock said the manager should handle it.

Off with Their Heads!

Treasurer Zelenock said her issue with both Manager Aynes and Planner Lippens is incompetence. She noted that Aynes put the pot ordinance at the very end of the agenda and that, unsurprisingly, several residents found the placement insulting, “a slap in the face”.

Board meetings typically run so late that the last items on the agenda are postponed. This meeting ended at 10:40 pm. Agendas are routinely re-arranged on the fly; many “action items” lack proper or supporting paperwork, and the result is lots of debate but little action, Zelenock said.

She blamed the four Trustees who hired Aynes for his “consistent lack of professionalism”. (His actions) “are not logical. Not acceptable. It’s time to fire people,” she said. “So Ms. Chick, Ms. Otto, Mr. Dockett and Ms. Beliger, I want you to hold your township manager hired him....(and) you rehired him. “

After the meeting, Zelenock addressed her issues with the planner and the deleted passages in the pot ordinance. “Lippens is not getting the job done. There are too many mistakes and omissions,” she charged.

“We pay more than $90k to our planners and more than $120k for our manager....and we’re always having these issues. We need to....(search) for new people,” she said.

The Supervisor, Clerk and Treasurer have consistently voted against hiring a manager, saying the position is unnecessary and expensive. (Only 3% of Michigan townships have managers according to the Michigan Township Association.) However, the four Trustees have voted in a block to support the position.

Zelenock said she was frustrated that Aynes and Lippens had failed to draft any guidelines for pot business applications. “They’ve known about this for weeks and we’ve got nothing in the packet tonight.”

Residents Pack Meeting & Speak Up!

Barb Wutka asked that the Board prohibit pot businesses in Precinct 2 since voters there opposed pot while Precincts 1 & 3 favored it. (Later in the meeting, her suggestion was dismissed as unrealistic by a majority of the Board).

Sam Iaquinto, owner of Mac’s Marina and supporter of pot businesses, said he was disappointed in Beliger, claiming she badmouths local businesses; grandstands at Board meetings and flip-flops in her capacity as Board Rep to the Park & Recreation Committee. “Tawn Beliger is a disappointment to the voters and citizens of Northfield Township,” he charged.

Mary Czech, a business woman who owns several properties downtown, supported local pot shops saying “we need growth....please honor the will of the people you swore to represent.”

Her sentiments were echoed by residents Jon Gura, Dana Forrester, James Trunko, David Gordon, Wayne Davison, Craig Warburton, Adam Olney, Todd Hawkmeyer, Coyote Windsong, Jerry Griffin and Marissa Prizgint.

James Trunko, co-owner Lovely Monkey Tattoo, made the point that Northfield Township residents have “now voted twice” to allow marijuana. He urged the Board to act quickly.

Opponents who spoke of their disappointment and concerns were Monica Miller, Sharon Koenig, Margaret Riddell and Planning Commissioner Brad Cousino.

Here are two comments from the 2nd Call to the Public:

David Gordon (the author) asked the Board to be more mindful of the environment; conduct an energy audit of township-owned buildings; consider solar panels to lower our carbon footprint; investigate bringing high-speed internet downtown to attract small business owners and again suggested the Board include page numbers on the Agenda. “Your packet is typically hundreds of pages long. Having page numbers would be helpful to the public and the Board.”

Local resident Dan McLean made a couple of simple, smart suggestions.

”It’s been tense (at these meetings this year) but it could be a little less tense with a better handling of the meetings,” he said, echoing a common criticism of Supervisor Chockley whose statutory duty is to run meetings and of Manager Aynes, who is tasked with helping her.

“Things always seem to be confused as to what ordinance version you’re working with - what page - what this - what that.,” he continued.

“In the business I’ve been in, we have documents projected on a screen. You have version control and document control so you know exactly what is happening; even editing on the fly with Word documents.

“They have editing features showing all the changes, with initials showing who made the changes; (it’s) very simple to do; it would make these meetings go about three times as fast,” he said.

One can only hope Chockley and Aynes were listening.



Meeting Documents:


11/12/2019 Board Meeting LiveTimeline  - About 250 moments of interest are linked to - unapologetically undisciplined editing.