Will Genoa Township have a marijuana dispensary in one of the township’s plazas in the near future, and perhaps a 100-foot lollipop sign announcing a nearby adult-oriented business?
According to attorney Peter Griggs with Brosius, Johnson & Griggs, LLC, without specific and swift action by the township’s trustees either or both of those scenarios could materialize.
Griggs was recently tasked with a legal review of the township’s zoning code and comprehensive master plan to determine if those two documents conflict with state statute and with each other.
He was also seeking weak spots where zoning code might be strengthened.
During last Thursday evening’s Genoa Township Board of Trustees meeting, Griggs reported on what he called serious issues with township zoning code that surfaced during his review – including potential problems addressing the rapidly approaching state deadline for establishing rules for the cultivation, processing, and dispensing of medical marijuana in Ohio; and zoning code’s prohibition against adult-oriented businesses.
“The board of trustees has to decide if the cultivation, processing, and dispensing of medical grade marijuana will be allowed in Genoa Township,” Griggs said. “State statute says you can prohibit or regulate; the code says a ‘township may …’, but you need to take some formal action. If you don’t take action it’s going to be allowed under code.”
Griggs said most Ohio townships have been passing resolutions to prohibit the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana to be used for allowed medical purposes.
One resolution on the evening’s agenda addressed prohibiting the cultivation, processing, and dispensing of medical marijuana in the township, but trustee Frank Dantonio said there should be a public discussion about medical marijuana before a trustee up or down vote on the resolution.
“Medical marijuana is a sensitive issue,” Dantonio said. He said any township resolution about medical marijuana must also consider the multiple facets involved. Growing marijuana is an agricultural issue, processing is manufacturing, dispensing is retail.
The trustees agreed to hold public discussions about the growing, processing, and dispensing of medical marijuana during the July 20 and August 17 board of trustees meetings.
Griggs said Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is a hot topic statewide.
“It’s something the board needs to act on, sooner rather than later,” Griggs added.
On the topic of adult-oriented businesses, Griggs said the township has a zoning regulation banning them, but according to state statute political subdivisions are not allowed to ban adult-oriented businesses. What the township could do, Griggs added, is regulate where and how they operate in the township.
Other areas that Griggs found needing addressed in Genoa Township’s zoning code include: content-based signage, on-street parking resolutions, and telecommunications towers.
“You might also want to consider creating an architectural review board,” Griggs said. “That would give you the ability to adopt architectural standards for new housing, and for rehabilitation and additions on older buildings.”
Griggs also said Genoa’s zoning code is not synchronized with the township’s master plan. He said fixing zoning code and bringing it in sync with the master plan would be at least a yearlong process.
“We know the comprehensive plan is not in sync with code,” Dantonio said. “But I don’t think fixing it should take a year. Until then, I think the comprehensive plan should take precedence.”
Griggs noted that zoning code is law; that guidelines in the township comprehensive master plan are policy-oriented in nature.
“Fixing your zoning code and bringing it in sync with the master plan is a matter of resources,” Griggs added. “Writing, reformatting, all the public hearings — it’s really a function of staff and resources.”
Dantonio replied that Genoa Township has the necessary resources to fix zoning code and bring it in sync with the master plan in well under a year.
“The zoning commission can meet more than one time a month,” Dantonio said. “All the heavy lifting is done in the comprehensive plan. That went two years, and that’s our blueprint.”
Genoa Township Development & Zoning Director Joe Shafer commended Griggs for his legal review of zoning code.
“I would get quick fixes done right away,” Shafer added. “The big picture might take over a year because we’re writing law.”
An updated list of Genoa Township meetings and activities is available on the township website
at < genoatwp.com >.
The Genoa Township Hall and Administration Office is at 5111 S. Old 3C Hwy., Westerville. The township administration and zoning offices are regularly open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.