02-22-2018 Hartford directs medical marijuana dispensary to location near Ely Park and Family Dollar

HEAVY RAINS AND SNOWMELT earlier this week caused widespread flooding throughout the area, which in turn resulted in some school and business closings. With more rain forecasted, the water levels in rivers and lakes will continue to rise through the weekend. Flaherty Park on Mill Creek in Watervliet was entirely flooded to the parking lot by Wednesday morning. For more information on the flooding, see the Police Report on Page 6. (TCR photo by Karl Bayer)

City of Hartford directs dispensary next to Ely Park

By Jon Bisnett

The Monday, February 19 meeting of the Hartford City Council had nothing on the agenda in regard to the only pending applicant for a medical marijuana dispensary in the city. Then Med-Leaf investor and spokesperson Doug Von Koenig addressed the meeting in regard to the recent receipt of a communication from City Attorney Harold Schuitmaker recommending 309 West Main as an acceptable and compliant alternative to the property Von Koenig has already purchased at 11 West Main. Last month 11 West Main was deemed by the attorney to violate the 500’ from a church rule contained in the medical marijuana business ordinance. The 309 West Main site is adjacent to the existing Family Dollar variety store. It is within at best a couple hundred feet of the newly acquired expansion of the city’s only public park slated to receive new children’s playground equipment later this year. Even long-time Hartford residents might ask where exactly is 309. The answer, the building is embedded between Family Dollar and Smith Lumber, being currently visible only in a bird’s eye satellite view on Google. With no separate front entrance currently, the face is obscured by the Family Dollar façade. If they were to proceed, Med-Leaf and Family Dollar would appear as a 2-store strip mall of sorts.

Von Koenig questioned the wisdom of this new recommendation. In earnest pursuit of seeking to be a good neighbor in development of their business Von Koenig asked several times if there is anything else that might preclude the 309 West Main site. He posed the question to the council multiple times, are they really sure they would rather have the business located next to the park rather than consider a variance on the former MacKinder Law Office at 11 West Main.

City Manager Yemi Akinwale responded that there should be no issue since the attorney has cleared the address for compliance. Akinwale said Med-Leaf needs to amend the application with the new address at which point the new site will be reviewed by police, fire and the Building Inspector, then on to the Planning Commission and back to the Council.

Von Koenig then produced a transcript of a Herald-Palladium article dated January 16, 2018 quoting Akinwale as stating that the sole applicant would be in the building two doors over from City Hall at 11 W. Main St. and that the property meets the requirements of 1,000’ from a school and 500’ from churches with it being 570’ away from the nearest church.

Akinwale denies making the specific statement as reported in the H-P supported by Mayor Rick Hall who says, “Sometimes these newspapers get ahead of themselves…”

The Tri-City Record reported that meeting in similar fashion with less detail in regard to the measurements, but with the clear impression from Akinwale that the application had indeed been vetted by Akinwale and was headed to the Planning Commission.

Von Koenig said he attended the Planning Commission meeting only to find the application had been stopped dead by the determination from the City Attorney who measures 11 W. Main at just at 392 feet from the nearest church and as such, non-compliant.

Von Koenig, himself a member of the Zoning Board of Lincoln Township, again asked the council what makes more sense; forcing his business to set up next to a city park and playground, or to use the council’s powers to take exception with the Shuitmaker opinion and grant a variance to the ordinance to allow Med-Leaf to operate discretely at 11 W. Main in the best interest of all aspects of community sensitivities and public safety.