Council Sends Medical Marijuana Law Back to Planning Commission

Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 1:44 pm
Ann Nichols

East Lansing’s City Council voted unanimously last night to send the matter of zoning for medical marijuana provisioning centers back to the Planning Commission. Council is asking the Planning Commission to undertake consideration of creating overlay districts rather than relying on existing zoning districts as a means of determining where patients can purchase medical marijuana in East Lansing.

At issue is a draft law called Ordinance 1416, which will regulate where provisioning centers can be located in East Lansing. A separate ordinance, 1395, regulates medical marijuana growing, processing, testing and transportation and was approved 4-1 in December.

City Council originally drafted Ordinance 1416 in 2016, and on November 15, 2017, East Lansing’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended that City Council approve it. Council then held a public hearing on Ordinance 1416 on December 19, 2017, but voted to postpone a decision due to a large volume of questions and concerns among Council members.

Last night, Council chose to wait again while the Planning Commission considers whether creating overlay districts is better for the City than relying on existing zoning districts.

According to City Planning staffer David Haywood, an overlay district functions differently from traditional zoning because it involves “boundaries” rather than “districts.” This allows Council to pinpoint in what neighborhoods it wants to allow provisioning centers.

Mayor Mark Meadows provided the example of the City’s existing OIP (Office Industrial Park) zoning, which currently includes two parcels in East Lansing, one relatively near the Hawk Nest residential neighborhood and the other in a non-residential area near Costco. Using only zoning criteria to decide that provisioning centers are allowed in OIP districts would allow provisioning centers to be located in any or all of those places. By contrast, an overlay district would allow the City to permit them only near Costco where there are no nearby residential neighborhoods.

At the request of Planning staff, in preparation for yesterday’s Council meeting, City Attorney Tom Yeadon drafted Ordinance 1416a, an amendment “to regulate provisioning centers by use of an overlay zoning district” which “would limit provisioning centers to the B-2, B-4, and B-5 zoning districts, but further restrict the geographic location within the aforementioned districts as appropriate.”

Yeadon explained that “The Zoning Enabling Act lets Council deal with special items when they don’t want to use traditional zoning districts.”

In response to a question from Councilmember Shanna Draheim, it was made clear that a provisioning center permitted under an overlay district would still have to meet the requirements of a Special Use Permit within the relevant zone.

After discussion last night, Council voted unanimously to officially take up draft ordinance 1416a and return it to the Planning Commission for discussion, input, and a new recommendation for Council.

Council members also added several specific requests of the Commission as they revisit the issue of locating provisioning centers.

These include providing a recommendation on the idea of capping the number of provisioning centers in East Lansing, providing an opinion on whether provisioning centers should be permitted in or near R1, R2 and R3 zones, and advising whether the B3 zone (downtown business area) should still be a possible location for such businesses given the DDA’s December 14th letter in opposition to such zoning without further study.


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