Prohibited: Panel passes first reading of recreational marijuana ordinance

Marijuana is shown inside a greenhouse at a farm in Potter Valley, Calif. On Tuesday, the Negaunee City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within city limits. (AP photo)

NEGAUNEE — Negaunee may be the next Marquette County municipality to ban recreational marijuana establishments.

On Tuesday, the Negaunee City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within city limits. The motion language also set a public hearing at its next regular meeting in March.

Councilors Paul Maino and Bill Anderson were absent.

Under the proposed ordinance, written in response to the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, establishments that sell marijuana would be “completely prohibited within the boundaries of the city of Negaunee.”

The ordinance language prohibits not only the sale, but the consumption of marijuana in public places as established by the act. Violation of any provision of the proposed ordinance would be “responsible for a municipal civil infraction punishable by a civil fine of $500, plus court-imposed costs,” the ordinance language states.

“What we are looking at right now is protecting the interest of the city,” City Manager Nate Heffron said. “The state is going to (act). The governor has mandated something coming down in March. I don’t know if that is going to happen or not. The thing is, we don’t want to be stuck in this situation where somebody just pops up a place where they can sell marijuana willy-nilly, and that we are going to be force-feeding them some type of licensing to do that. We really want to have a wait-and-see approach with the state and see where they go. Whatever we pass here next month might be overridden by the state, and that is what we are going to live with.”

Mayor David Kangas said he was looking forward to getting the “best information” and “proper direction” on the issue of regulating recreational marijuana.

“To me, it’s scary,” Kangas said. “It’s just kind of has been pushed down the state’s throat and each individual municipality. I want to make the best informed decision as I can, and I know everyone else on the council wants to do the same, but it seems awfully fast. But I am hoping and praying that we make the right, proper decision. It’s going to be a hot-button issue. It is what it is. But I am hoping that it irons itself out, and we can all live with the results of the past election and move on from here. I have great faith that we will make a good decision to move forward.”

In other business, the former Negaunee Wastewater Treatment Plant will go up on the auction block before the end of March.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to discontinue public use of the property and authorize city staff to put the building up for auction to be sold for no less than $30,000.

The city assessor valued the property at between $30,000 and $40,000, said Heffron, based in large part on the condition of the 11 structures on the 12.4-acre property.

“We are looking at a wastewater treatment facility which has been closed for several years. All of the buildings are flooded in the facility,” Heffron said. “I have done two tours through it (and) there is mold damage. Whoever purchases the property will probably dispose of some of these buildings, so we are suggesting a $35,000 mark for this auction.”

The next several weeks will be spent making preparations to put the property up for sale, Heffron said.

“I think it takes about four weeks to get all the publications and the legal work that needs to be done, so it will be some time in March,” he said.

The auction date and time will be properly publicized, and will likely take place in an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant area of city hall, he said.

“I will be acting as auctioneer,” Heffron said. “This will be a live auction. We will solicit and announce the bids as they come in.”

He said there have been “a couple of people” who have expressed interest in the property already.

During a Jan. 10 meeting, the council approved a second reading of an ordinance that changed the zoning of the property from Public Area to Industrial.

The wastewater treatment plant was built in 1953 and decommissioned in 2014 after the city began using the Ishpeming Area Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility, the city’s 2016 master plan states.


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