Officials say intense marijuana smell emanating from home violates zoning
For months, a flag bearing a marijuana leaf flew above Ypsilanti Township resident Michael Engle’s home.
And for months, neighbors have complained about the “intense” marijuana odor being pumped from his home.
Officials aren't certain how much marijuana Engle is growing in the Ypsilanti Township residence or whether he is processing it, but officials do know neighbors are fed up with the strong odor they say has made them physically sick and prevents them from opening their windows.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Now, the township is asking a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge to order Engle to stop the emissions, which officials say is especially prevalent between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Mike Radzik, director of Ypsilanti Township’s office of community standards, stressed that the case has nothing to do with a violation of the state’s medical marijuana laws. He said the case is about the violation of the township’s zoning code relating to odors.
The zoning ordinance states that the "creation of offensive odors shall be prohibited" in any zone. Radzik said the odor coming out of the home constitutes an offensive order, and a district court judge agreed.
Neighbors first began complaining earlier this year and Engle was cited for the violation along with the home’s owner, Deborah Klochubar. On May 8, 14-B District Court Judge Charles Pope ordered Engle and Klobuchar to abate the odor.
Officials say that order has gone ignored and neighbors still are complaining.
Radzik said Ypsilanti Township and law enforcement officials aren’t sure what is causing such a strong smell, but he said an exhaust vent in the basement is in place and pumping air out of the home.
“The only thing we know for sure is there is a harmful odor emission, primarily at night, and the quality of the neighbors’ life is severely impacted,” he said. “The district court order to cease those emissions has been ignored, so we’re left with no alternative other than to ask the circuit court to try to help us put an end to this.”
AnnArbor.com could not reach Engle for comment. Neighbors also declined to speak to a reporter.
The medical marijuana state law has been widely debated since it was approved by voters in 2008. Ypsilanti Township, like many other municipalities, put in zoning laws to regulate where medical marijuana is grown.
According to state law, a person with a medical marijuana patient’s card can grow up to 12 plants for their personal use. Ypsilanti Township ordinance allows residents to grow their personal plants in residential zones.
But state law says registered caregivers can grow up to 72 plants for up to five patients and their own personal use. Ypsilanti Township's zoning ordinance doesn’t permit caregivers to operate in residential zones.
Pope required Engle to let a township ordinance inspector to see Engle’s grow operation to determine if there are less than the 12 plants allowed in a residential zone.
Radzik said a code inspector went to the home and was turned away before an attorney representing Engle said a mistake was made and the inspector could go back to the home. Enlge did not allow photography and permitted only one inspector. Radzik said conditions with zoning ordinance inspections are unusual.
When the inspector went into the home, he found Engle had placed black plastic over all the entryways, creating a small, dark hallway. Radzik said Engle led the inspector down the hallway and into a basement where the inspector was shown 10 medical marijuana plants.
But Radzik said officials don’t know if there are more plants in the house and have no idea what was behind the plastic.
Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department deputies have made contact with Engle on several occasions and forwarded information to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office. But the prosecutor’s office declined to give authorities a search warrant or pursue charges because of insufficient evidence that any state law was being broken, Radzik said.
But Radzik underscored that the state law is not the township's concern in this case.
“We don’t know what the situation is at this house - I won’t speculate - but we’re trying to deal with the offensive order,” he said.