Hearing set for code amendments regarding weed businesses

MARQUETTE — With the city of Marquette’s ordinance allowing adult-use marijuana businesses to operate in the city becoming effective in March, the city planning commission has been busy amending the city’s land development code to outline land-use standards for the establishments.

After several work sessions on the topic, the Marquette City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and vote Tuesday night on proposed amendments to the city’s land development code that will allow adult-use marijuana businesses to operate in the city.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Marquette City Hall Commission Chambers, which is located at 300 W. Baraga Ave. in Marquette.

The public hearing will offer an opportunity for area residents to give feedback prior to the planning commission vote, Marquette City Planner and Zoning Administrator Dave Stensaas said, noting those who aren’t able to attend the meeting can provide written feedback to the city’s planning office.

If approved by the planning commission, the proposed amendments to the land development code will be voted on by the Marquette City Commission at a public hearing to be held Feb. 24, Stensaas said.

With city commission approval, the amendments could become effective in March, concurrent with the effective date of the city’s ordinance to allow adult-use marijuana businesses in the city.

Over the past months, the planning commission developed zoning recommendations and special land-use standards for each type of marijuana business allowed under Michigan law and city regulations, as the ordinance approved Oct. 15 by the city commission placed no restriction on the number or types of licensed marijuana businesses in the city but includes “buffer zones” prohibiting the establishments from operating within 500 feet of schools, religious institutions or licensed substance abuse disorder program facilities.

Developing the land-use standards for the businesses largely involved “determining if the fit between the nature of the business and the intent and characteristics of our zoning districts for the potential location of those businesses, and also determining what development standards are appropriate,” Stensaas said in an email.

“Our staff and the planning commission has taken a few months to consider these issues, including a great deal of learning about the marijuana industry, and researching how these businesses are impacting other communities,” he said.

It’s important to recognize, Stensaas said, that “Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency has created extensive standards for licensing the various categories of recreational marijuana establishments — the licensing requirements are stringent due to the concerns for public safety and health — for some of the license categories, the state’s licensing requirements probably exceed almost any other type of business in the same category.”

Under the approved city commission ordinance, marijuana businesses with the following licenses will be allowed in the city: class A, B, C and excess growers; microbusinesses; consumption establishments; processors; retailers; safety compliance facilities; and secure transporters.

“The nature of these businesses is as varied as the nature of zoning districts, and providing a land-use regulatory framework for this new industry demonstrates the purpose and value of having a variety of zoning districts,” Stensaas said. “The work sessions the PC held went smoothly, there was a lot of learning on everyone’s part, and there was some helpful input given to them by members of the public.”

The planning commission on Nov. 19 proposed multiple zoning districts for each business type but recommended not allowing most types of marijuana establishments — with the exception of safety processing facilities — in mixed-use districts and the Third Street Corridor due to the residential integration in these areas.

“There are several distinct types of businesses and they do merit being treated as distinct for where they are allowed to operate and how the subject property development should be conducted,” Stensaas said. “There are licenses for retailers, which most people probably would expect to be allowed in the downtown core, but there are also grower licenses that allow for large agricultural operations, and processors that use highly flammable solvents. As well as licenses for safety compliance facilities, secure transporters, consumption facilities, and microbusinesses that may combine growing, processing and retailing their unique products.”

The current recommendations for marijuana operations by zoning district are:

≤ Central business district: designated consumption establishments; class A growers; micro-businesses and processors that use light manufacturing; retailers; and safety compliance facilities.

≤ General commercial and regional commercial districts: growers with class A, B, C or excess grower licenses; microbusinesses and processors that use light manufacturing; retailers; safety compliance facilities; and secure transporters. The general commercial district would also allow designated consumption establishments.

≤ Industrial/manufacturing: growers with class A, B, C or excess grower licenses; microbusinesses and processors that use light manufacturing or heavy manufacturing; retailers; safety compliance facilities; and secure transporters.

≤ Marquette Downtown Waterfront district: microbusinesses and processors that use light manufacturing; retailers; consumption establishments and safety compliance facilities.

≤ Mixed-use district and Third Street corridor: safety compliance facilities.

While the allowable zoning districts vary for each license type, all businesses will require special land-use permits to operate in districts where they are allowed.

To learn more about the city’s marijuana ordinance and the process, visit marquettemi.gov/marijuana.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.