BEULAH — It has taken about six months to determine whether the proposed site for the Dunegrass Co. provisioning center is in Benzonia Township where adult-use marijuana is allowed, or in the Village of Beulah, where it is not.
The property, it turns out, is located squarely in the township. Dunegrass, which is licensed under the name Fresh Coast Provisioning LLC, received a building permit this week from Benzie County for upgrades to a building on the site that will sell marijuana.
The property is at 7803 Crystal Dr. and houses Papano’s Pizza on one end and classroom space on the other end where owner Andrew Miller does firearms training. It has also been home to a hair salon and an ice cream parlor through the years.
Benzonia Township Supervisor Jason Barnard said there has never been a survey that shows where the line between the township and village actually is. Many believed it ran through the Miller property; others thought the property had been annexed from the township to the village many years ago.
The township recently hired Mansfield Land Use Consultants of Traverse City to do a survey and settle the dispute. The company found the property line to be south of the parcel in the township, not through the parcel. Mansfield also did an investigation with the state of Michigan and could find no annexation documents on the property.
Questions about the property began when Dunegrass applied for the building permit. The provisioning business had already been approved by Benzonia Township when the county told them the property was not located in the township, but in the village.
“Over the years the story’s changed,” said Miller, who has owned the property for more than 20 years. “At one point I was paying full taxes in both the village and the township.”
He said the village called him about eight or nine years ago to let him know that he was overpaying his taxes because only part of his property was in the village. He was given a refund for two years of taxes.
Miller said when he heard the county was questioning the location of the parcel he did a title search and found the property is not in the village at all.
He said when the village put in a municipal water and sewer system things may have become even more muddled, as several property owners along the village/township boundary jumped at the chance of hooking up to the system. He doesn’t know if those people are also on village tax rolls.
“How many people are paying village taxes and shouldn’t be?” Miller said.
What’s even more frustrating is that the village has no records of anything, he said.
Karrie A. Zeits, who is general counsel for the village, in June sent a letter of inquiry to the Michigan Office of the Great Seal seeking information on the status of the annexation, but said she has received no documents.
“Everything points to there was no annexation,” Zeits said.
Benzonia Township records show that in 1982 the Benzie County Board of Commissioners petitioned what was then the state Great Seal & Registration Unit to annex the property.
To do so the state needed certified copies of mutual consent resolutions from the township and the village, as well as a legal description of the property being annexed, records show.
Resolutions from the village, township and county approving the annexation, as well as the original petition and legal descriptions of the property were sent to the state by the Benzie County clerk in 1985. A month later the clerk got a letter back from the state saying that the legal description lacked information on road and highway rights-of-way and on public utility easements.
The annexation documents would “be held pending receipt of the necessary information,” the state wrote.
The information never came, though the village, township and county have always treated the property as if the annexation had taken place, Barnard said.
“It never went through, but has been on the village tax rolls for many, many years,” Barnard said.
Records show it has been since at least 1973, according to Benzie County Administrator Mitch Deisch.
Miller is still paying taxes in both municipalities and said he hasn’t yet decided if he’ll seek a refund.
“I paid taxes all these years,” he said. “The money’s long gone.”
Nicholas Piedmonte, co-owner of Dunegrass, said barring further hold-ups, the provisioning center should be open by the end of the year.
“We’re really excited to open our business,” said Piedmonte, of Traverse City. “We look forward to moving on with the development process.”
Dunegrass opened its first store in Manistee last week and has plans for more in Big Rapids, Marquette and Cadillac, in addition to Beulah.