East Lansing Info runs a journalistic service called Ask ELi to Investigate to help members of the community get factual answers to their questions about East Lansing.
On Nov. 2, a reader sent these questions to our contact page about the Quality Dairy store located at 808 Michigan Ave., across from Harrison Roadhouse and the Brody dorm complex at Michigan State University:
“The second QD is closing in EL, this one on Harrison and [Michigan Avenue]. Do you know why and what is coming in its place? The neighborhood is very upset. Rumor has it Nov. 19 is the last open day and [it has been] sold to a [marijuana] dispensary? Unsure of the truth of that rumor, but could the city allow that with an adjacent neighborhood?”
It does appear that the store is closing.
We have a call into Quality Dairy’s corporate headquarters to get this confirmed and have not yet received a response. However, the shelves in the store are emptying and a reliable source has said it is slated to close. (The source needed to remain anonymous to protect business relationships.) We will update this story when we get a response from QD headquarters.
The reader is correct in recalling that this would be the second QD in East Lansing to close in the last couple of years. In 2020, the QD store at 1109 E. Grand River Ave., in the Bailey neighborhood, also closed.
Could the Harrison Road location become a marijuana dispensary?
The short answer is: not under current zoning.
In order to limit the number of pot shops in East Lansing, City Council set up special “overlay” zones where these establishments could be located. The parcel at 809 Michigan Ave. is not in one of those permissible zones.
The QD property is just north (outside) of a marijuana provisioning overlay zone, namely the one that includes properties zoned B2-commercial that are described in the zoning code as “south of Michigan Avenue and west of Brody Road.”
That zone currently includes one marijuana provisioning center, Ascend Cannabis, at 1415 E. Michigan Ave., former site of a Pontiac car dealership.
It’s worth noting that the city’s zoning law for marijuana provisioning also includes a setback restriction. No new shop can be located less than 1,000 feet from the property line of an existing shop in the zone we’re talking about. It appears from maps that this means Ascend is the only shop that can be located in that provisioning center overlay district.
Could Council change the zoning restrictions?
Yes. But the current council has shown no interest in doing so.
By the way, the maps are not all that matter here. To sell marijuana, an operator has to do a lot more than locate in the right spot according to the zone restrictions. They must follow the complex regulations set up by the State of Michigan and must also obtain a Special Use Permit from East Lansing’s City Council. There are separate systems for medical marijuana sales and adult-use recreational sales.
So, even if a property is available for marijuana sales according to the zoning maps, City Council can always vote not to allow a shop to sell marijuana.
Update: This article originally stated the store’s address as 809 E. Michgian Ave. It has been corrected.