Big Rapids may limit downtown marijuana stores

BIG RAPIDS — Big Rapids City Commissioners held a public hearing to receive input from residents and local business owners on a proposed amendment to the city’s marijuana ordinance.

The hearing is set for May 17 at 6:30 p.m.

The proposed amendment will remove District C2, or Downtown, from the Marijuana Ordinance, thereby preventing any new marijuana businesses from setting up in this district.

Businesses currently open or in the process of establishing a downtown outlet would not be affected by the change.

Big Rapids attorney Eric Williams told the board that when he was preparing a resolution — at the direction of the commissioners — to eliminate District C2 as a district where retail marijuana businesses could settle, he admitted that there had been no public hearing. potential changes.

“State and local law requires a public hearing on any zoning ordinance amendment so interested parties know exactly what is being proposed,” Williams said. “In order for the committee to adopt the resolution and vote on it, there must be a public hearing on this particular amendment.

“It’s not how we planned to do it,” he said. “Normally any amendment to the ordinance goes to the planning commission and then there is a public hearing and the commission receives a recommendation which is voted for or against. This time, we don’t have the preliminary processing of it by the planning commission.

“If the commission is interested in acting on the zoning ordinance amendment, you need to have the public hearing before passing the change,” he added.

Williams said the commission might want to consider whether there are enough commissioners who will want to see the amendment put to a vote, because otherwise there would be no point in having a public hearing.

“If you’re not sure what you might want to do after the public hearing, then that’s the next step,” he said. “This is a procedural step that is necessary for you to consider the zoning amendment.”

“We can vote on this measure and see where it goes,” Mayor Tom Hogenson said. “While it’s unlikely that everyone will want to go this route, it’s up to us whether or not we want to hold this public hearing.”

The resolution to schedule the public hearing was approved unanimously.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION

After several months of discussions and two public hearings, the Big Rapids Planning Commission sent a recommendation to the city commission on March 15 for two proposed amendments to the original marijuana ordinance for the city commission to consider and adopt. .

One recommendation was to add the language “any MONTH school” to the 500 foot setback regulations from any K-12 school, public or private, or any MOISD facility. The amendment would apply specifically to the MOISD Transition Center in downtown Big Rapids.

The other recommendation was to change the signage bylaw to be more lenient, allowing for additional signage and lighting.

Paula Priebe, Big Rapids Community Development Manager, explained that downtown was the original problem, but the planning commission ultimately ruled against any amendments that would limit marijuana businesses in the downtown.

“They looked at options like removing the C2 district altogether and banning these types of businesses downtown,” Priebe told the board. “They also considered adding a setback between marijuana businesses so that a new business could not enter within a certain proximity of an existing facility – as a ‘first come, first served’ way of using the zoning ordinance to limit the total number of businesses.”

“Ultimately, they fell on the side of relying on the market,” she added.

At the March 15 meeting, it was decided that the council would vote on the amendment to the Signs Regulation Ordinance, but tabled the proposed amendment until further discussion could take place.

Some commissioners have expressed that they might favor passing an amendment to remove District C2 from the ordinance.

As per the board’s request, Priebe presented them with two separate resolutions — one to implement a 400-foot MOISD setback and one to clear downtown of any new marijuana businesses — at this meeting. week.

“I spoke with 13 different companies that occupy the city centre, and of those 13 companies, 11 said they thought the number already allocated to the city center was sufficient and that they did not choose to see more,” James told the board. .

Priebe previously told the board that she had contacted several local business owners, as well as the Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Business Association, during planning commission discussions of the changes and that she had no received no firm response for or against other marijuana businesses in the downtown district.

Council has decided to defer any action on the Zoning Ordinance Amendment Resolution removing Ward C2 until after the public hearing so that the information gathered can be assessed.

The resolution to pass an amendment adding a setback around the downtown MOISD Transition Center was also tabled after council members debated whether it would be necessary to have a setback if the amendment to eliminate district C2 was adopted.

ADDRESSING THE ‘GRAPES’ OF COMPANIES

During their previous discussions, planners also considered changing the Marijuana Ordinance to include a rollback around all marijuana businesses citywide to avoid “clusters” of marijuana businesses, such as in the area around State Street and Perry Avenue.

Ultimately, they chose not to recommend the citywide setback, saying that while they weren’t particularly supportive of marijuana business clusters, they believed the best companies would win.

“If there are others who still want to invest in Big Rapids and make their business a success, we want to give them that opportunity,” Chairman Chris Jane said.

Currently, eight marijuana retail stores have opened in the city, including three in the downtown area. Others are expected to open in the coming months. With construction along South State Street, Skymint is one such dispensary set to open this year.