City leaders are recommending that public land be sold or leased as the number of companies looking to grow medical marijuana in Akron cracks double digits. Akron City Council’s planning committee approved two tentative land agreements Monday, one for the sale of 1055 Home Ave. and the leasing of 492 Munroe Falls Road. The deals require a full vote from the council next week, and both are contingent on the buyer or renter securing one of 24 initial state licenses to grow medical marijuana in Ohio.
On the Home Avenue property is an out-of-use sewer maintenance facility built in 1951. The three-acre plot recently has been appraised at around $800,000, City Planning Director Jason Segedy told the council Monday.
Equinox Capital Group, LLC, a company described by the city’s economic development staff as having “local roots,” is asking City Council to hold the property until its application with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program is, hopefully, approved. To ensure the city won’t sell to anyone else, the company, which did not return a phone call Monday afternoon, will pay $5,000 in good faith over the next six months.
“So if they do not get the license from the state, what happens?” asked Councilwoman Linda Omobien. “Then they release the option. The option is dependent upon them getting a license,” said Brent Hendren, a small business administrator in the City of Akron’s Department of Economic Development.
In short, they can walk away. Some on the council, however, pondered the upside. “So if this goes through, as Equinox wants it to, this property will go back on the city’s tax rolls?” said Councilman Bruce Kilby, whose city ward houses the publicly owned, tax-exempt property. “Yes,” replied Hendren.
The second property is 54 acres of vacant land sandwiched between two businesses along Munroe Falls Road industrial corridor, where lots are commercially zoned and applicable for medical marijuana cultivation under the city’s recently passed local rules for growers and dealers. For this lot, essentially a field of tall grass and shrubs outlined by trees, a tentative lease agreement with Arizona Facilities Supply LLC would net the city $1,440 per acre per month for five years — again, if the company gets a state license to grow.
Though the property would remain under the city’s ownership and, therefore, not bring in taxes, the economic boost would be felt in other ways. “They intend to spend at least $700,000 — should they get the license — to build a facility,” Hendren said. Hendren said the Arizona company, which did not respond to an email sent Monday, has contingent land deals like this across Ohio and other states as companies must legally own land, even if it hasn’t been paid for, before they can apply for a grower’s license.
The council will consider “conditional use” requests by Equinox and four other applicants on Monday. This is the first step in the lengthy process of becoming a medical marijuana cultivator in Ohio, a Midwestern state with tighter regulations than early adopters of the medicinal and tax revenue benefits of ingesting pot. Next, each company must apply with the state.
The public can comment on these first five proposals at 1:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. Monday inside the council chambers on the third floor of City Hall. Next month, four more businesses, including the Arizona company (which hasn’t filed an application yet), will come before the council’s planning committee and then the full body. A 10th proposal for a $50,000 facility on East Crosier Street — the least expensive plan pitched so far — was withdrawn by the applicant, city officials said.
All proceeds of sale and lease deals would pad the city’s general fund. Though this revenue is “not spoken for,” Hendren told the council, the city’s Public Utilities Department controls the Home Avenue building, so the sale of that asset would stay within the sewer budget.