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Planning commission plans busy 2021


January 12, 2021


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Ironwood — The Ironwood Planning Commission is preparing for a busy year — much of which will be reviving conditional use permits for commercial marijuana license applications.

The first order of business at the Thursday meeting was to elect board officers for 2021, with Sam Davey elected chair and Stephanie Holloway as vice chair on 5-0 unanimous ballots. Commissioners Robert Burchell and Mark Surprenant were not present.

Davey served as chair in 2020. Holloway was appointed to the commission in 2020 and replaced Burchell as vice president. The remaining commissioners for 2021 include David Andresen, Nancy Korpela, Mark Silver and Ironwood City Commissioner Joseph Cayer as an ex-officio member.

In his report on the marihuana establishments licensing process, Tom Bergman, director of community development, said there are eight applicants with a total of 16 applications. All of the applicants but one micro-business applicant have applied for multiple licenses. 

There are additional points for multiple licenses in the competitive scoring rubric that acts as an incentive, Bergman said. 

“I think that’s why we saw a lot of people trying to have a retail license as well as also have some sort of growing or processing license,” Bergman said. 

There are two applicants for the micro-business licenses that allow for cultivation, processing and packaging of up to 150 plants for sale or transfer to another marijuana safety compliance facility. If both applicants make it through the licensing process there would not be a competitive selection as there are two licenses available, he said.

There are six applicants for two available marijuana retailer licenses, Bergman said. The licenses allow the business to obtain marijuana from other marijuana establishments to sell products to individuals ages 21 or older.

There are no class A grower applicants, he said. The class A license allows growing up to 100 plants.

There are two applicants for two available class B grower licenses that allow for up to 500 plants, he said. There are four applicants for two available class C grower licenses that allow for up to 2,000 plants.

There are two applicants for two marijuana processing licenses, he said. The license allows businesses to obtain marijuana from other establishments to process or package for sale to other establishments.

A potentially likely scenario will be that applicants that do not score high enough for a retail license may not choose to accept to pursue the grower license application because they would no longer work in combination, Bergman said. 

“It will be interesting to see how that plays out,” Bergman said.

If this scenario plays out then there is the possibility that open licenses will be available at the end of this first application process, he said. Rather than address that now, Bergman recommended waiting until the initial application process was complete rather than bringing in more applicants toward the end.

“My recommendation is that let’s not cross that bridge until we get to through this process because it’s going to be lengthy just getting through this initial process,” he said.

The planning commission’s primary role will come after the initial review is completed and the applicants move forward for the site plan review and the conditional use process, Bergman said. In order to schedule all of the applicants with public hearings and site visits this portion will require around 90 days.

The public hearings require public notice and all property owners within 300 feet of a proposed marijuana business will be notified in writing, he said.

The planning commission will be looking at the actual physical impact that a business could potentially have with its location and site plan, he said. The planning commission will consider information from the applications, site visits and public hearings when applying screening or other specific conditions on conditional use during this process.

The site plans are completed by the city administration while the planning commission has more authority on the conditional use process, Bergman said. The concern with this portion of the process is to ensure that conditional use is applied fairly so as not to put the city at risk, he said.

The next step in the process will be to score the applications on a merit based scoring system, he said. He recommended one meeting of the planning commission and the city commission to come to a consensus to avoid the potential for repeating the process.

The applications are strong and there is a likelihood that many will have maximum scores, Bergman said. There will be staff recommendations but a tie score presents a scenario where a random drawing is possible, he said.

The city commission meetings in February, March and April will likely serve as public hearings on marijuana applications, he said. There is the likelihood of multiple meetings during these months to maintain a timely process, he said.

Davey inquired as to whether the public hearings will be virtual or in person. Bergman said that unless the state revises the COVID-19 order then as of now the February and March meetings will be virtual. 

Davey asked how many of the marijuana establishment applicants were local. Bergman said the two micro businesses applicants and one of the retail and grower combination applicants are local. The remaining five applicants are from out of the area.

In the remaining reports, Bergman said the city zoning ordinance revision is currently in the districting and mapping portion with some items to remedy before adoption. The consultants working on the revision will likely have a virtual presentation for the planning commission, he said.

“I would really like to get the zoning ordinance done as soon as possible as it is holding up other planning projects,” Bergman said, noting that technical assistance funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation are awarded but not available until the zoning ordinance is completed and the Redevelopment Ready Communities certification is awarded.

The next planning commission meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m, Thursday, Feb. 4. The link to the virtual meeting will be posted on the city of Ironwood website.


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