DALTON TWP. — The new cannabis grow industry in Michigan may soon create a new economic landscape for Dalton Township.
A large marijuana grow facility may be in operation along Whitehall Road as early as next year.
A Chicago-based real estate development firm, db3 made a public presentation on a proposed $20 million development which would be fully operational in five years, and completed in a decade, at the township board’s meeting last Monday evening (August 12).
The firm is targeting the development, called “Sensi Park,” for 2900 Whitehall Road, which is the former Wayside Trailer Park, now owned by the township. In future development the park would expand into Muskegon County’s Business Park North, located adjacent to the township site.
“We don’t produce or process or distribute any agricultural products,”explained db3 co-founder Leon VanHook who gave the presentation. “We develop spaces to facility that. Our vision is to make it possible for cultivators to do what they’ve never done before. Grow crops anywhere, anytime, profitably at scale.”
VanHook said db3’s entire business model is based on its ability to leverage economies of scale. “By having an enormous industrial park we can offer best in class services for small to medium businesses. We will provide a myriad of services to tenants.”
One of the services is wholesale electricity generated by a natural gas co-generation plant on site.
VanHook gave an overview of the conceptual development plan which would be completed in four phases over 10 years.
VanHook, who is founding db3 with Martin Davis, said they hope to get underway with the project in the third quarter of this year, and complete the first phase next year.
The first phase, on the former Wayside Trailer Park property, would start with a community building facing Whitehall Road. VanHook said that commercial building would include a day care, innovation center, testing laboratory, product transitioning, processing, and administrative space. It would also offer educational facilities.
VanHook said, next to the commercial building will be the co-generation plant. Behind those structures will be the first two of 325,000 square foot, three level indoor greenhouses with a controlled cultivation center. The five-year plan calls for another greenhouse. Each greenhouse can support multiple tenants.
He added that the development will have armed guards on site 24/7 and a virtual security system.
The economic impact was also presented by VanHook.
Initially, the development would support 250 construction jobs, and in the first year provide 138 jobs. Within the first five years that would grow to an estimated 266 jobs. Those jobs would result in a payroll of nearly $8.7 million.
The capital investment — buildings and site development — would have an investment of about $20 million.
Asked what would happen if the cannabis industry would be shut down, since marijuana is still classified federally as a Class 1 narcotic, the developers said the facilities could support growth of other agricultural products.
Stevan Bratic, managing director of Bratic, headquartered in Royal Oak, Michigan, said the plans are to mitigate the odor impact to the surrounding community.
The 7 1/2 year and 10 year phases would include Muskegon County’s Business Park North property.
“This is something that will help our community with jobs,” said Tony Barnes, Dalton Township supervisor. “Nothing but positive for our township moving forward based on that they have the flexibility to meet the needs of growers.”
The seven-member township board, following the presentation, unanimously approved a Letter of Intent, to negotiate the sale of the nearly 15-acre township property to db3 for $106,260, which is $6,900 an acre.
Township Attorney James Scales of Mika Meyers, Grand Rapids, said the Letter of Intent will give the township and db3 30 days to negotiate a sales agreement. Before then, the township planning commission will meet August 27 to deal with zoning issues.
The township attorney said the sales agreement, if reached, would give the developer 60 days to do its due diligence for zoning, regulatory permits. The developer would provide escrow funds so the township can engage an engineer and other consultants in the approval processes.
Scales said the developer asked that the escrow be capped at $10,000, but he advised the township stick with the ordinance which does not call for a cap.
Another issue which will have to be resolved is the movement of a portion of the Fred Meijer Berry Junction paved bicycle trail which passes through the Business Park North property. Scales said the developer would have to agree to move the trail using private funding. The developer wants to move the trail for develpment and security reasons.
The attorney also said the sales agreement would provide a mechanism for a 90-day extension for the developer to complete the due diligence.
db3 has experience in high-tech medical, educational and hotel space developments, but VanHook said Sensi will be the firm’s “alpha” first agricultural development.