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Preparations now underway

Marquette City Planning Commission holds work session on land codes for marijuana ordinance

MARQUETTE — With the city of Marquette’s proposed adult-use marijuana regulation ordinance headed for a public hearing and city commission vote on Oct. 15, the Marquette City Planning Commission is preparing for the potential arrival of marijuana businesses in the city, as associated land development code amendments will need to be made before the ordinance, if approved, would become effective.

At a planning commission work session held Tuesday regarding potential changes to the city’s land development code that could be needed to provide for marijuana establishments and facilities in the city, the planning commission took a first look at the proposed ordinance.

If approved by the Marquette City Commission, the ordinance would change the city code’s chapter 5 — which deals with marijuana — to allow the businesses in the city.

“That is ultimately going to be the controlling code for municipal regulation of recreational marijuana establishments,” Marquette City Planner and Zoning Administrator David Stensaas said in an email, “as acquiring a zoning permit will only be possible for an applicant that (is) in compliance with Chapter 5 and has received a provisional license from the state’s Marihuana Regulatory Agency for the type of establishment they are seeking to locate on the ground.”

If the proposed ordinance is passed, chapter 5 will “specify which recreational marijuana establishment types will be allowed in the city, how many of each will be allowed, and the separation distance buffers between those marijuana establishments and specific land uses (e.g. schools, daycare centers, City parks, drug-rehab facilities),” he said.

One of the planning commission’s main tasks regarding land development code amendments to allow recreational marijuana establishments is to recommend the special land-use standards for various marijuana establishment types, Stensaas said.

“The other main issue for the (planning commission) will be making a recommendation regarding which zoning districts may be appropriate for all of the marijuana establishment types that are allowed under Chapter 5 of the City Code,” he said.

There are many considerations to be made on potentially allowable zoning districts, and some unknowns about specifics of the state’s emergency rules on zoning requirements, Stensaas and planning staff emphasized.

After reviewing the draft ordinance — which does not include limits or restrictions on the types or numbers of recreational marijuana establishments in the city, per direction of the Marquette City Commission at its Sept. 9 meeting — city planning staff presented the planning commission with a rough draft of special land-use standards that would apply to the specific marijuana establishment types defined by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

“There will be a set of general standards that would apply to all the establishment types. And all of the MRA-defined establishment types would require a (special land-use) permit, which will require specific standards to be met to qualify for the permit,” Stensaas said. “Those standards will deal with odor control and the typical standards businesses are expected to comply with (e.g. signs, lighting, landscaping, parking, outdoor storage).”

While the ordinance hasn’t gone to a vote yet with the Marquette City Commission and no final determination has been made on which adult-use marijuana establishment types will be allowed in the city, the city’s planning staff, along with the planning commission, will be working on developing special land-use standards applicable to each type, Stensaas said.

These will ultimately be recommended to the city commission for adoption into the land development code, he said, noting the planning commission’s final recommendation to the Marquette City Commission will be made “only after developing standards that they think are appropriate and then holding a public hearing to gather input from the community.”

Further work sessions on the matter will follow at regular planning commission meetings to be held Oct. 15 and Nov. 5, he said.

The entire process stems from Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which voters approved in the November election to legalize recreational use by anyone 21 and older, and gives each municipality the right to determine whether to allow or prohibit marijuana establishments within its boundaries.

In response to the act, the Marquette City Commission in February approved an ordinance that opted out of allowing commercial marijuana establishments within city limits due to concerns about lack of state rules and guidelines. However, in the time since, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued emergency rules in July, leading the city to revisit the issue.

The Marquette City Commission discussed the proposed adult-use marijuana ordinance — which would repeal the ordinance passed in February — during a work session on Sept. 4 and a meeting on Sept. 9, voting 4-3 to direct city staff not to establish limits on numbers and types of licenses for commercial adult-use marijuana establishments in the proposed draft ordinance. While the city will hold a vote and public hearing on the proposed ordinance Oct. 15, the associated amendments to the land development code will need to be made before it becomes effective.

According to the current draft ordinance, the city is aiming to make the ordinance effective in June, if approved.

Visit marquettemi.gov for more information on the process and to view the draft ordinance.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.