Flint, MI—Flint City Council has approved the sale of the city’s former farmers’ market location to the Flint Children’s Museum, though not without continued debate over the location’s neighbor: a marijuana facility.
The facility in question has been in the possession of Sozo, a cannabis company with three other Michigan locations, since September 2020 according to company documents.
Kristi Kelly, Sozo’s Chief Strategy Officer, said the company received its site plan approval and Special Regulated Use approval from the Flint Planning Commission on April 13, 2021.
Now, Sozo is nearing completion of extensive renovations to its 1101 Robert T Longway Blvd. location–renovations which total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and include restoration of the former bank’s chandelier and a replica of its vault’s original handle.
“We are at the very end of a lengthy and thorough process,” Kelly said in an email. “We are proud of what we have done with this space, and eager to be the newest member of Flint’s business community.”
But Sozo’s license approval has not yet been approved by Flint City Council—a requirement after Planning Commission approval—and council members were dismayed to learn they were asked to vote on the Children’s Museum’s potential move without being made aware of the Sozo’s facility until last week.
“So this whole timeline disturbs me because the Flint Children’s Museum has been before us for a very long time,” said Ninth Ward Councilwoman Eva Worthing. “So I don’t know if the delay by council was strategic, or if the administration knew about this and didn’t tell us.”
Worthing asked Suzanne Wilcox, Director of Flint’s Planning and Development Department, to explain when she was made aware of the marijuana facility, to which Wilcox shared the April 2021 approval date.
“I don’t know that there were any deliberate delays on anyone’s part,” Wilcox said. “I think it was more of a communication issue because the dispensary piece was handled by Planning and Development and the Children’s Museum was handled by Economic Development. … We have known about the dispensary. They’ve been in place and have been working towards getting their permit license in good faith since April of 2021.”
At council’s Feb. 7 meeting, Flint’s Acting Economic Development Director Samantha Fountain said that the Flint Children’s Museum was aware of the marijuana facility but still wished to move forward with the sale of the former farmer’s market.
“This body was told that you were aware and you were okay with it. Is that not true?” Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer asked Flint Children’s Museum Executive Director Kimberly Roddy during the Feb. 14 approval meeting.
“We are aware. We are not necessarily okay with it,” Roddy said, adding that the children’s museum wants to move forward with the option to buy the former farmer’s market location. “So I think that’s where the misunderstanding may have been. We are okay with moving forward asking this body to approve the option for us.”
Roddy said that the Flint Children’s Museum is a nonprofit organization and therefore beholden to a board of directors and donors who have expressed concern since learning the museum’s proposed new location is adjacent to a marijuana facility.
“That conversation (between stakeholders and the museum) hasn’t taken place officially or formally,” Roddy said. “So it’s not clear at this point if we will (purchase the former farmers’ market) or not right now. We’re just looking for the option.”
Flint City Council voted unanimously to pass the resolution allowing the museum to purchase the former farmers’ market building at 420 E. Boulevard Dr.
The license permit for Sozo’s newly-renovated marijuana facility is estimated to come before Flint City Council by the end of February.
Kelly, Sozo’s CSO, confirmed the company has already submitted an amended site plan that includes a barricade fence between its newly-renovated facility and the proposed Children’s Museum site.