Flint, MI— The site of a former Flint Police Training Academy will be turned into a marijuana establishment following a city council vote on May 24. 

The council was divided on the issue, but with a vote of 5 to 4, the half-million dollar land sale was approved, and the property was sold to a company with plans to renovate the building, and commercially grow marijuana. 

The property located at 3420 St. John Street was not even for sale, according to the City’s Director of Economic Development Khalfani Stephens. 

Evergrow, LLC, put in an unsolicited bid of $500,000 for the land—an offer that is 100 times what the City priced the land at.

After receiving the bid, Stephens said they explained that they could not just accept a bid like that, and that they would have to make the property publicly available. He said the City followed policy, and made the property available to the public by posting it on the City of Flint website for one week with a listing price of $5,000. 

In that time, the city received one other bid from Flint resident Brenda Williams for $20,000,who said she was intending to use the property for marijuana purposes as well. 

“It was intended to be utilized, hopefully, by a person of color in this town, which, at this point, there is no marijuana facility of substantial nature that is currently owned or operated by a local person of color in the city of Flint,” Williams said.

Williams said she had her eye on the property for a few years but was told there would have to be a bid process. She kept checking in on it, and just recently saw that the property was listed, so she made a bid not knowing about the $500,000 bid. 

Stephens said the administration chose to go with the bid from Evergrow, LLC, because it was significantly larger. 

Franko Sallaku, managing partner of Evergrow, said that they would aim to have the “overwhelming majority” of their 15 to 20 employees be Flint residents. 

Councilman Eric Mays requested a legal opinion about whether or not the City actually followed proper procedures in the bidding process of the property. 

He said, according to the language in the policy, he believed it should have been listed on multiple websites, rather than only on the City website. 

Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter said she felt like there were some “backdoor deals” going on, and suggested the council discuss as a group how they thought the property, which is in a historically Black area, should be used. 

Councilwoman Eva Worthing said she thought there were backdoor deals going on too, but the other way around, and questioned whether Mays and other councilmembers had some affiliation with the lower bidder. 

Council President Kate Fields asked Sallaku if allegations that Mayor Sheldon Neeley had financial interest in the company were true. He said they were “absolutely not.” 

Fields also asked Williams if A.C. Dumas, a council candidate, had financial interest in her bid. Williams said she was insulted she was asked that question. 

Fields said she couldn’t see any reason why the council would vote against this sale, based on the two offers given. She said the $500,000 would go into the City’s general fund and could be used for police officers, blight, or other things. 

Fields, Worthing, Councilman Santino Guerra, Councilman Herbert Winfrey, and Councilman Allan Griggs voted to approve the sale. Mays, Winfrey-Carter, Councilman Maurice Davis, and Councilwoman Monica Galloway voted against the sale.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...