Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Marijuana applications available


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Ironwood — After a month of preparation, the city of Ironwood will open the application period for adult-use marijuana establishments on the city’s website starting at 4 p.m. today.

The Ironwood City Commission on Monday 4-1 approved revisions to the marijuana establishments ordinance. Commissioner Joseph Cayer did not support the revision and has opposed the adult-use marijuana ordinance all along.

A public hearing on the marijuana establishments ordinance prior to the city commission was required with the changes produced from the last meeting. 

“The main purpose of this ordinance change is to clarify how the fee structure works with regard to the license fees and the application fees,” said Tom Bergman, director of city community development. “The other part was to further clarify the roles of city staff in the review process.”

The lone public comment during the virtual meeting came from Jeff Barker, a Lansing attorney who said he was retained by community members who intend to apply for a license. He said he appreciated the city’s clarification on the application fees.

“I think we are all comfortable with the changes here and I appreciate the clarification on the different positions that will be providing their guidance and input on the applications,” Barker said. “We look forward to putting together some applications as soon as we get a look at them.”

Answering questions from Cayer regarding the possibility of marijuana establishments existing next to private residences, Bergman said it would depend on the district and all applications will go through the conditional use permit process that includes a public hearing with a notice. 

It is possible that a residence in or abutting a C3 Highway Commercial District could be approved with setback or screening requirements, he said. All properties within 300 feet of the proposed business would be notified by mail at least 15 days prior to the hearing.

In new business, the city commission 5-0 approved a memorandum of understanding and agreement between the city and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, with Dakota Hewlett acting as the state trails coordinator, for a $7,000 Iron Belle Trail Challenge Grant that will be used for a historic interpretive signage project.

The project includes a trailhead sign that will be a two-sided art panel that serves as an information kiosk and placed on the trail between Lowell and Curry streets. There will be three other historic information signs to be placed on the trail at other locations in Ironwood.

The trailhead sign will cost $3,832, according to the agreement. The three historic signs are $2,534 each or $7,602 collectively.

In addition to the $7,000 grant, the Kiwanis donated another $2,000 toward the $12,634 project, said Scott Erickson, city manager.

“This will help offset our cost for those signs,” Erickson said. “This was a really good effort to keep our costs down and there is a lot of support for the historic signs along the trail.”

The Iron Belle Trail property is under the ownership of the MDNR. There is a maintenance agreement with the Michigan Western Gateway Trail Authority.

“I want to thank our city staff for finding another source to help us fund this project,” said Rick Semo, city commissioner.

City Commissioner Jim Mildren said with the good weather of the past week there were many people walking, riding bikes or skateboarding on the Iron Belle Trail. The four signs are going to offer a taste of the historic nature of Ironwood from the theaters and schools to industry and the downtown, he said.

“People are really going to be proud of these signs,” Mildren said. 

The commissioners 5-0 approved the state’s amended rules governing city commissions holding electronic meetings. 

Erickson said the city commissions may continue to hold electronic meetings using audio or video technology without reason through the end of 2020. In 2021, the city commissions may attend meetings electronically if they are serving on military duty, there is a local or state disaster declaration, or if there is a medical condition.

In 2022 the city commissions will revert to the original pre-COVID-19 meeting requirements that allow only for commissioners serving on military duty, he said. In addition there are new protocols that require participants to state their location when attending a meeting electronically.

The city commission 4-1 approved a one-year property lease agreement with Up-N-Smoke BBQ, LLC, to set up a mobile food trailer at 238 Ayer Street. Cayer voted against the lease. 

The business owner, Nathanial Price, said his nearby property presented slope problems for his operation. He said he has a custom-made trailer and has acquired the state inspections required for city licensure.

Erickson said the lease provides the business with 110 feet of Ayer Street frontage. The city has an additional 200 feet of street frontage remaining. 

Mayor Annette Burchell said the lease sheds light on the need for the city to revise its business ordinance to ensure the mobile food stand opportunities are more fair to the existing storefront businesses. The ordinance and fee structure should clarify a permanent mobile food stand from an intermittent mobile stand, or a one-time food stand, and whether they exist on private or public property, she said.

“I think it will be a nice addition,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kim Corcoran of the food stand being near the trails and parks. “We can take a look at these schedules for additional food trucks. In my travels I have seen the same type of thing where you have more of a semi-permanent food truck and I have heard good things so far and so I am on board to give it a try and to go from there.”

In his report, Erickson said the COVID-19 pandemic numbers are so high that the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department has stated that resources are stretched to the maximum and efforts are focused on the most vulnerable citizens to include individuals over age 65. 

“This is basically a full-blown community-wide spread,” said Andrew DiGiorgio, the director of Ironwood Public Safety Department, in his report.

The practice of wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands is trending in the wrong direction and people need to take the health threat seriously, he said. If prevention is promoted and followed then Ironwood will be better off as a community.

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