Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Commercial marijuana ordinance decision continued


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Ironwood — The Ironwood City Commission will wait until September to consider a revised adult-use marijuana manufacturing ordinance proposal that failed a split vote in March.

Mayor Annette Burchell was not present and Mayor Pro Tem Kim Corcoran urged the commissioners not to take action on the ordinance until the full commission was present. The 4-0 decision to postpone followed a public hearing and after commissioners made suggestions for changes.

“We’ve been approaching this ordinance, I think, very conservatively,” Corcoran said, before asking the commissioners to look at the potential for jobs and the impact on tourism and economic growth that the ordinance would have for the area. 

Commissioner Joseph Cayer asked for a legal opinion from the city attorney for the ordinance to require that the commercial marijuana business owner reside in the community.

During the public comment portion of the public hearing, Jeff Barker, who said he is an attorney from Lansing who was retained by community members, said the city has “a good ordinance,” but wanted to point out signage size restrictions, conditional use permits, and pre-qualifications in the application that are problematic with requiring substantial investment in preparing a facility without knowing if the application will be approved. 

Those should be the requirements of a business plan, he said. The actual work can be approved after the license is awarded.

The ordinance would require a potential marijuana business to be pre qualified with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs prior to applying in the city. The pandemic has resulted in a backlog of state applications and the city ordinance should require state qualification prior to awarding the business license, he said.

The city has also placed limitations on the number of commercial marijuana businesses by type, to include two retail stores, two micro businesses and two growing operations in each class. There is nothing to say what happens if there are more than two applications.

He said other cities that have opened up the application process have resulted in licensing the caregiver growers that are often the source of the odor issues and so bringing them into the city’s ordinance is a solution. He suggested uncapping the growing limit to the class A 100 plant operation.

“That will just lead to more people wanting to invest in this town,” he said. 

Two other callers said the city has a “good, conservative ordinance.”

Ben Thompson said the economic downturn since February is far more serious than most people realize. There is some urgency to approve the ordinance to help with the recession, he said.

Tom Bergman, director of community development, said it was also his opinion that challenges exist with placing limitations on a competitive process.

“There could potentially be some legal ramifications to that,” Bergman said. 

The commission then 4-0 scheduled a public hearing for 5:25 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, for the commission to consider extending the sunset provision of the city’s ordinance to option out of the commercial marijuana establishments. The ordinance expires Sept. 1, and would need to be in place until the city commission approves the proposed ordinance or adopts another option-out ordinance. 

In the city’s COVID-19 report, Andrew DiGiorgio, director of public safety, said there were 326 people who participated in the Aug. 12 drive through COVID-19 clinic at the station in collaboration with Western Upper Peninsula Health Department and the Michigan National Guard. The event identified four positive cases.

“We continue to see positives (COVID-19) in our community and the health department seems to be on top of things.”

The public safety department is working with the Ironwood School District to identify the safest possible traffic pattern for drop-off and pick-up of children at the schools. The public safety department has two drop-off bins at the station for the public to donate elementary and high school size face-masks for kids who can’t afford them.

Paul Linn, city finance director and treasurer, said he received an email just before the meeting regarding the state’s August revenue estimating conference. He said there appears to be a consensus on the revised economic and revenue figures for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 and for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. 

The good news is that the forecasted numbers for the state’s general fund and school aid fund combined are not as bad as initially forecasted in May, due in part to the federal stimulus. However, the forecasts are still down from January and are not looking good, and he will report the breakdown to the local units of government as soon as the information is available. 

The city has opted into the Water assistance program to help low income families that are enrolled in the state food assistance program of the Department of Health and Human Services, he said. The city is working on outreach to ensure that eligible families who are not enrolled are aware of the program that helps pay arrearages on water and sewer bills.

In other business the city commission 4-0 approved:

—A variance for a new garage at 125 E. Ash Street. The Board of Zoning Appeals approved the request in a public hearing prior to the city commission.

—A $98,412 pay application to Angelo Luppino, Inc. for the 2019 Local Street Paving Program.

—A $123,889 bid to Fabick Cat of Marquette, for the city’s purchase of a mini excavator. A U.S. Department of Agriculture Disaster Relief Grant is providing $50,000 toward the purchase.

—A $170,260 pay application to Ruotsala Construction for work on the Downtown City Square Project, and authorizing Mayor Pro Tem Kim Corcoran to sign all applicable documents contingent upon MEDC approval. 

—The bid list of the Ironwood Public Safety surplus properties auction.

—An $8,900 bit to GTE Electric to relocate electric service and replace variable frequency drive at Well House No. 104.

—A public hearing to consider adopting Resolution No. 020-013 regarding a blight violation at 143 W. Oak Street. The hearing is scheduled for 5:25 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14.

—A $50 COVID-19 stipend for election workers for the Nov. 4 General Election. The stipend is in addition to the $10 an hour payment for around 13 poll workers in recognition of the their service during the COVID-19 pandemic and to aid in recruiting poll workers.

—Resolution No 020-014 governing the 2020 Comprehensive Deer Management Program.

—Revised CDBG policies reguarding the grievance procedures with the fair housing plan and discrimination complaint process as required by various state grant applications.

—A $120 bid to Glen Hupp to remove the original dasher boards from the Pat O’Donnell Civic Center, contingent upon approval of the civic center board. The bid saves $3,500 that the contractor would charge to remove the boards and to store them until disposed of or sold.