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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Hubel

Pontiac Cannabis Redevelopment Project Ends in Legal Turmoil

The Pontiac cannabis redevelopment project, a $40 million plan to transform a vacant Kmart site in Oakland County into a marijuana business and retail hub, has taken an unexpected turn. The development site is now up for sale as a heated legal battle unfolds in a federal court. The clash involves allegations of bribery against the city's former officials, including a former mayor. The situation has become a complex web of accusations, leaving the cannabis redevelopment project in ruins and the city facing a massive lawsuit.



The Failed Redevelopment Plan

The ambitious $40 million development project aimed to revitalize the derelict Kmart property on Glenwood Avenue in Pontiac. The plan envisioned a medical marijuana hub along with retail spaces, including a Hollywood Market grocery store. Rubicon Real Estate Holdings LLC, Browne Design Consultants LLC, and Joseph Brown spearheaded the project and filed a lawsuit against the city.


Legal Battle and Allegations of Bribery

The heart of the legal dispute lies in the city's alleged reluctance to issue a medical marijuana license for the redevelopment. Rubicon and its investors claim that the city's delays caused them to lose tens of millions of dollars in potential rental revenue from tenants who abandoned the project due to uncertainties.


Rubicon is seeking damages of $60 million, alleging a total loss of $45 million. However, the city, led by Mayor Tim Greimel, has put forward a new defense, claiming that a $5,000 bribe was paid to secure a rezoning request spot on the Pontiac Planning Commission's agenda. The lawsuit implicates a former Department of Public Works interim director and an unnamed "former-mayor Official No. 1." The accused parties have denied any involvement in bribery.


Magistrate Judge Curtis Ivy Jr. ruled that the city can argue in court about the alleged bribe to secure the agenda spot but disallowed claims of bribes to secure votes for the rezoning.


Years of Struggle and Accusations

The legal battle marks the latest twist in a long-standing fight between Rubicon and Pontiac. The development group had purchased the 26.5-acre property in early January 2020. Initially, the Pontiac Planning Commission and City Council approved Rubicon's rezoning request. However, the project encountered several delays and disputes, leading to lawsuits and allegations of financial mismanagement.


The city has also accused former Mayor Deidre Waterman of financial wrongdoing, further complicating the situation. Waterman denies all allegations and blames the current administration for launching a smear campaign against her.


Impact on the Cannabis Rollout

The fallout from the failed Pontiac cannabis redevelopment plan has wider implications for the city's marijuana licensing process. Due to legal challenges and delays, Pontiac did not issue medical marijuana licenses until July of the previous year. By then, the market had shifted to focus on adult-use recreational marijuana, rendering medical licenses less valuable. As a result, no medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in Pontiac.


The city had planned to launch its recreational marijuana industry in July of the current year. However, a group backed by medical marijuana license holders halted the process with a ballot referendum. The referendum aimed to repeal the city's current recreational marijuana ordinance, further delaying the rollout of the recreational market.


Conclusion

The Pontiac cannabis redevelopment project has become a cautionary tale of grand plans gone awry. The legal battle, fueled by bribery accusations and financial losses, has left both the city and the developers at odds. The failed project has impacted Pontiac's marijuana licensing process and disrupted the potential growth of the cannabis industry in the area. As the legal proceedings continue, the future of the site and the cannabis market in Pontiac remains uncertain.



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