Letters to the Editor: Why can’t the township get rid of a drug house? / Supervisor issues response

Dear Editor,

The neighborhood has been asking “the inspector” about the Delmas Road drug house for the past 15 months.
Immediately after the new owner’s possession, a contractor working there informed the neighbors that they were starting a marijuana grow house. The building department was informed of the situation and they said that “nothing could be done at this time.”
Once the trenching was started for the 600-amp three-phase underground service, the building department was asked about the size of the service being installed in a residential zoning. A 600-amp service is 3-6 times the size of an average home.
Why is this allowed in a residential zoning?
If they wanted a backup generator, it would take a 350 hp diesel unit to put out 530 amps and has no place in a residential zoning. The permit for this work was issued on February 7, 2020 and in the previous (deceased 2018) owner’s names.
How can you issue a permit to a deceased person?  Did they forge the previous owners’ names/signatures?
The township was also notified (by the neighborhood) that the new owners were homesteading the property, thus denying the township tax revenue, when they did not live in the home. It is a vacant house, and the owner has a homestead listed for additional properties in Wixom that was easy to find online.
The township said it could not be proven.
A second permit was issued on May 14, 2020 for additional electrical service and more trenching. When the township was asked about the need for a silt fence, they said nothing could be done. A third permit was issued on July 13, 2020 for the four three-phase air condition units for a total of five air conditioning units on one residential property.  Each unit produces a minimum of 72 db of noise and are commercial grade units.
When the township was asked about the noise levels (I believe that code is only 52db for an a/c unit), the inspector said that they cannot enforce it. This is also when all the neighbors began to smell the marijuana grow operation and the current homeowners harvested their first crop.
A fourth permit was issued on September 16, 2020 for a final inspection for circuits and fixtures (the four a/c units). The building department went inside for the inspection. They were then asked by neighbors if they could smell the marijuana, and they said “yes.”
When asked why nothing was being done to remove the commercial operation from a residential neighborhood, their answer was “fear of being sued.”
The fifth permit was issued on October 28, 2020 for adding plumbing into the assessor building – three floor drains, a laundry tub, and more trenching to the house to attach to the current plumbing/septic system. No increase of the size of the septic system has been added for the addition of the discharge. When the township was asked about the discharge of the plant fertilizers and runoff, they said it was fine.
Come to find out this is not “fine” as the discharge needs to be put into a different system, so it does not contaminate ground water and soil. The Michigan State Police raided this grow operation on February 8, 2021 and seized 160-plus marijuana plants being grown both in the house as well as the assessor building.  The police noted at this time that there was no one living in the house (just for reference, the caregiver act allows a total of 72 plants).
So there is proof that there is a commercial grow operation in a residential zoning neighborhood. As of last week, they are back growing and have been moving in topsoil and shelving units and the a/c units are running again.
No effort has been put forth by the township to even slow down the operation, much less to condemn the place as uninhabitable as a home. This has brought down the value of all homes in the area.
Once the new owner (recent purchase of a home in the neighborhood) found out about the grow operation, they still have not moved in and that has been over six months ago. We asked the inspector to tear down the house, so what are you waiting for?
The 160-plus plants that were confiscated during the raid were only about one-fifth the potential given the size of the assessor barn and the vacant home and basement. The odor from the 160-plus plants was overwhelming and could be smelled up to a quarter mile away. It could be smelled in Stonewall Sub, Stone Valley Sub, Independence Oaks County Park, and on Pine Knob Road.
We asked the inspector why the building department has failed to keep our township safe, property values up, and the criminal element that goes with a marijuana grow operation out of our township.
We are aware that there were things that could have and should have been done but were not.
In our opinion, the township has failed all the homeowners in Independence Township.

Jesse Moyet
Independence Township


Rebuttal: Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle responds
Dear Editor,

We would like to thank Mr. Moyet for taking the time to share his concerns regarding a suspected marijuana grow house and the importance of maintaining property values.
The township shares Mr. Moyet’s concern with this contentious issue made all the more difficult with marijuana now being legal in the State of Michigan by a vote of the people.
By way of background, the medical use of marijuana was legalized in 2008 through the Michigan Compassionate Care Act with 63 percent of the vote in favor.  A 2018 initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana (the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act) passed with 56 percent of the vote.
This issue gets even more frustrating when the Oakland County prosecuting attorney refuses to take enforcement action with suspected grow operations. And let’s throw in a global pandemic that virtually shut the country down for a year.
But enough excuses.
Here’s what Independence Township has been doing to maintain our neighborhoods:
A couple of new township ordinances will soon be in place giving the township better enforcement leverage with marijuana issues that exist in not just Independence, but many other townships across the state.
1. A recent Supreme Court ruling and subsequent Appellate Court decisions now give the township the legal authority to regulate medical caregiver grow operations in residential communities, as allowed under the 2008 Michigan Compassionate Care Act.
As permitted by state law, caregivers are allowed to grow medical marijuana for up to five patients, which cannot be prohibited by local ordinance. However, our new ordinance will limit these operations to only the Industrial Zoning Districts in the township. The ordinance also addresses important health and safety concerns for our residents.
2. The township’s home occupation ordinance was just updated, allowing individuals to continue to work from home,
but has been amended to require businesses operating in residential neighborhoods who have multiple employees park on site, who store materials or equipment on site, or who may cause a public nuisance, to acquire a special land use from the planning commission.
3. Both new ordinances have permitting and inspection requirements to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the businesses and surrounding homes are maintained. Failure to comply with the permitting/inspection processes can result in a civil infraction initiating involvement with the 52-2 District Court, which is an important enforcement tool.
It must be noted these new ordinances are not intended to infringe upon an individual’s right to grow and use marijuana for their personal use as approved by a vote of the people in 2018.
While the implementation of these legal remedies may not have happened as fast as everyone would have liked with the COVID shutdowns, the township is confident these new ordinances will provide the “legal teeth” needed to ensure compliance and enforcement in all of our neighborhoods.

Patrick Kittle
Independence Township Supervisor

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