City’s Proposed Zoning for Marijuana Businesses Concern Some

Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 9:27 am
By: 
Ann Nichols

This Wednesday, October 25, East Lansing’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Ordinance 1416. In its simplest form, the proposed ordinance makes changes to the current B4 and B5 zoning requirements to permit the presence of medical marijuana provisioning centers based on special use permits. Another draft ordinance #1395 deals with the four other types of facilities: growers, processors, testing, and transport. Wednesday's meeting includes Ordinance 1416 on its agenda as the subject of a public hearing, and the related Ordinance 1395 as "Old Business." The possibility of either or both of these passing eventually at City Council is already causing controversy.

According to a memo prepared by City staff for members of the Planning Commission, the proposed ordinance “addresses the regulation of Medical Marihuana Provisioning Centers in the City of East Lansing under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act” in the context of zoning only, focusing on “specific special use standards that will help to address their unique characteristics while considering where to locate these facilities and how to address their operation when reviewing license applications.”

The staff memo makes it clear that Wednesday’s discussion of 1416 is not the end, but “a starting point for this specific license type to help further discussion on provisioning centers.” There is also at least one “public input meeting” on Ordinance 1416 scheduled for November 28, 2017.

An earlier-introduced draft ordinance, numbered 1395, aimed to deal with other licenses including safety compliance, processing, growing, and secure transport facilities. Ordinance 1395 was introduced in November 2016 and has technically been under consideration since. It is on Wednesday’s Planning Commission agenda again under the heading of “Old Business.”

Mayor Mark Meadows says in an interview that “The provisioning center part of 1395 seemed like it needed more discussion than the rest of the ordinance so we split the topics and introduced an ordinance that only applied to everything but the provisioning centers.”

Asked about what some residents characterize as a rushed process with no notice, Meadows points out that although there are currently no medical marijuana dispensaries in East Lansing, “[East Lansing] has had an ordinance regarding dispensaries for some time, with no takers.” He adds, “It is important [to note] that the Planning Commission has had a number of meetings regarding the marijuana ordinance, beginning in January of 2017.”

The issue has, in fact, appeared on the agenda of Planning Commission meetings on January 11, September 13, September 27 and October 11, 2017, and the Commission has been officially charged with reviewing Ordinance 1395 since November of 2016.

To date, the Planning Commission has received two pieces of written correspondence on the matter in advance of Wednesday’s meeting, both of them in opposition.

ELi has also received inquiries from people wanting to know what might be happening with this issue, both spurred by a letter sent by Anne Hill, Chair of the Hawk’s Nest Homeowner’s Association, to neighbors on October 21. The letter focuses on Ordinance 1395 and says that a likely location for growing and/or processing facilities would be on either side of the Hawk Nest subdivision.

Hill’s letter outlines possible pitfalls of living near a growing or processing facility, and encourages other Hawk Nest homeowners to write to the Planning Commission in opposition to passage of the ordinance and to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Among Hill’s points is that City Planning and Zoning Administrator David Haywood told her that granting permits to marijuana growing and processing facilities is “not a money making opportunity for the City.” This contradicts an advisory memo from City Attorney Tom Yeadon in November of 2016 in which he explained that part of the new state legislation gives municipalities a proportion on the 3% state excise tax on proceeds from the marijuana business, based on the number of facilities in the municipality.

Hill (not Haywood) asserts that much of this excise tax revenue will be absorbed by the costs of increased law enforcement and monitoring of facilities.

Although Meadows is uncertain of the process or timeline for passing the ordinance, the Hawk Nest letter quotes Haywood as saying that “it is the intent of City Council to have the ordinance in place by December 15th, when Michigan will begin accepting applications for licenses in local jurisdictions that that have ordinances explicitly approving these activities in their jurisdictions.”

Ordinance 1416 permits dispensaries and primary caregiver facilities in zones B4 and B5 if the business obtains a special use permit. These maps outline the primary locations of B4 and B5 zones in the City. This map shows the City of East Lansing’s Drug-Free Zones.

Tomorrow’s Planning Commission meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the 54B District Court, Courtroom 2, 101 Linden Street. Televised recordings of Planning Commission regular meetings are shown live and replayed for Comcast customers on WELG (Ch. 22). In addition, a streamed feed of WELG (Ch. 22) is available online and the City’s website also streams the meeting.

 

Note: This article was edited after publication to correct an erroneous characterization of Ordinance 1416 as applying to businesses other than medical marijuana provisioning centers.