(Photo by Tom Gilchrist) Raymond Akrawi, representing Bedford RNA Properties of Sterling Heights, indicated to the Vassar Planning Commission that he could bring 30 jobs, or more, to buildings he plans to construct on a vacant parcel that once was home to Wayne’s World Pub.

A proposed marijuana store and indoor growing facility could provide 30 new jobs, though one official calls the project “too close” to nearby homes.

Vassar Planning Commission members voted 3 to 1 on Monday to rezone land at 519 E. Huron Ave. from a general business status to a light industrial designation.

Bedford RNA Properties, of Sterling Heights, wants to build a marijuana store and an indoor marijuana growing facility at that address, which once housed Wayne’s World Pub, formerly known as Club 38 tavern.

Wayne’s World closed following a fire, years ago, at that location.

“We’re creating jobs and developing a parcel that’s not being used,” said Raymond Akrawi, who addressed the planning commission on behalf of Bedford RNA Properties.

Planning Commission members Gary Kasper, Jennifer Patrick-Miller and Nathaniel Miller voted to rezone the parcel, though Buryl Binder opposed it.

“I live right across the street,” Binder said. “I’ve got one grow facility, the (former) foundry, that I voted for – and I’m not gonna vote for another one right across the street from me, across the street from my grandkids.

“That’s too close to residential for me.”

A number of homes sit along North Sheridan Street, west and across the street from the pie-shaped grassy lot where Akrawi wants to begin construction this year on a recreational marijuana dispensary, or store.

But a Star of the West Milling Co. grain elevator sits along Sherman Street, to the east of the proposed marijuana businesses. The grain elevator parcel carries a light industrial zoning status.

So does the parcel that would house the proposed marijuana businesses, following Monday’s planning commission vote.

“There are some adjacent (light industrial-zoned) properties back there, so it’s not like you’re putting it in the middle of a residential area,” Kasper said.

Akrawi estimated 15 workers – about seven to eight in two shifts – would work at the indoor growing facility at the site. He figures the retail marijuana store could employ “a lot more just due to the turnover and because it’s different types of hours.”

Binder asked how many workers would be at the marijuana store at one time.

“It all depends on the volume of customers,” Akrawi replied. “I’m saying, right now, I want 15 employees. Business might not be that well where I can afford to pay 15 employees to stay there stagnant just twiddling their thumbs. So it might just be two employees. I can’t give you a concrete number on how many are going to be there at any given time, and I don’t want to steer you the wrong way.”

Three stores sell recreational marijuana and medical marijuana in the city of Vassar, while a fourth store – Premier Provisioning Center – operates along M-15 just south of the city limit, in Vassar Township.

Several other marijuana stores are planned in the city, though the city has capped the number of licenses at 10 for recreational-marijuana stores.

Akrawi said the indoor growing facility “won’t look like a greenhouse, and it won’t emit odors as we would have to utilize certain features inside the building to prevent the smell from (traveling) outside, whether it is charcoal filters or a rezoning of the air.”  

Akrawi estimated the complex would be about 4,500 square feet in area.

“I want to work with the city and with our neighbors to make sure I am not an eyesore for them when we are open for business,” Akrawi said.

That said, Akrawi told the planning commission that marijuana businesses are here to stay.

“At the end of the day, just like COVID-19 is not going away, marijuana is not going away,” Akrawi said. “It’s possibly going to be more in front of us as I’m driving down and seeing (stores advertised) on billboards and stuff like that.

“I won’t be advertising on the building, saying ‘Hey, look here,’ because I don’t want to attract that attention.”

By rezoning the parcel to a light industrial status, the planning commission allowed Bedford RNA Properties the option of growing marijuana indoors at that location.

“A grow operation is 24 hours a day,” Akrawi said.