By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Sky Lounge West, 23914 Ford Road won a lawsuit against the city of Dearborn Heights and Clerk Lynne Senia relating to an ordinance which capped hookah lounges allowed in the city.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway ruled Dec. 15 that the city is restrained from enforcing the ordinance which was adopted June 25, 2019.
“The praised ordinance must first be submitted to the Planning Commission for the City of Dearborn Heights in accordance with applicable zoning enabling statutes and ordinances, and the proper procedure for adopting the ordinance must be observed,” the order read.
Also, Senia must process the lounge’s application for a certification of competition in relation to the licensure and permits sought, in the usual timely fashion and cannot use the passed ordinance as a basis for denial of the application.
Hathaway ruled that the injunctive relief against the city and Senia is binding.
In the court documents, Sky Lounge argued that it properly followed the required steps to open the second location, at the city and state levels.
A timeline details the process starting in November 2018 when Sky Lounge submitted a proposed hookah cafe building plan to the city which was approved by the head of the city’s building department and a permit to buildout a hookah cafe was issued.
In June 2019, Sky Lounge submitted a certificate of occupancy application to the city. Following an inspection by the city, Sky Lounge was asked to remedy a number of deficiencies.
The next month, the city issued a building permit with requirement from the fire department to install fire sprinklers, a fire alarm system was then installed.
Shortly after, the city’s fire marshal conducted an inspection of the building for the purposed of obtaining a certificate of occupancy, which was issued for an occupancy of 201 people.
In August 2019, Sky Lounge submitted a business license application to the city for purpose of operating as a tobacco specialty retail store — i.e. hookah lounge, which was approved Aug. 6, 2019.
Also, the city issued a certificate of occupancy that month.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services approved the Sky Lounge business license application in October 2019. Two months later, Sky Lounge submitted a smoking lounge application required by city, but did not receive a reply or response.
A followup email was sent in January 2020, with no response. In October 2020, Sky Lounge received correspondence from MDHHS asking for a copy of certificate of compliance however, the court documents say Senia refused to sign the certificate.
Attorney for Sky Lounge, Amir Makled, said the ordinance was in violation of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act because it was not reviewed by the city’s planning commission.
Court documents say the ordinance was passed without the required review, recommendation, public hearing or input from planning commission.
Also, the court documents said that when the city council adopted the ordinance on June 25, 2019, the language considers Sky Lounge as a smoking lounge.
About six months prior to the hookah lounges ordinance, a 180-day moratorium was passed preventing smoking lounges from opening.
During city council meetings, residents spoke out voicing concerns over the Sky Lounge location along with Makled who said the adoption of the ordinance was in violation of the zoning enabling act.
A veto by Mayor Daniel Paletko was overridden with a 5-2 vote by the council at the same meeting.
“The ordinance stifles competition by capping the allowable number of smoking business licenses at seven,” Paletko’s veto read. “Per one member of city council majority, the city has seven such establishments already. Hence, the ordinance is intended to prevent any new business from competing with these existing establishments.”
He also informed the city council that the Sky Lounge was under construction at the time and already received their certificate of occupancy, before the moratorium was passed.
Corporate Counsel Gary Miotke told the council that there were many problems with the ordinance and that he thought it would violate the Zoning Enabling Act.
He suggested that the ordinance go to the Planning Commission for review because it has zoning and land use implications. The commission would give a recommendation and then the council would be able to adopt the ordinance.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])