2018-02-08 / Front Page

Zoning board approves language for medical marijuana facilities

Ordinance amendments now head to county board

MANISTIQUE – Amendments to the section of the Schoolcraft County Zoning Ordinance addressing marijuana facilities are headed to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners for final approval. The amendments were considered and approved during last week’s meeting of the Schoolcraft County Zoning Board.

The Feb. 1 meeting began with a public hearing to consider the possible amendment of the medical marijuana facility section of the Schoolcraft County Zoning Ordinance. Mark Rivard, the county’s zoning administrator, read the proposed amendments of Section 6.24: “Marijuana Facilities”.

“A marijuana grower, marijuana processor, marijuana safety compliance facility, or marijuana secure transporter, in accordance with the provisions of state law, may be permitted through the issuance of a conditional use permit pursuant to Article 8 of this ordinance in the town district,” he read.

The conditional use permit will be issued as long as the applicant meets four requirements – including: that the city, township or village in which the facility will be located has adopted an ordinance authorizing such use; the facility be licensed by the state of Michigan and in compliance with all state laws regarding medical marijuana, including the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, etc.; the facility is licensed by the city, township or village in which it is located; and the understanding that if all conditional use standards within the ordinance are not met, the permit will be suspended or revoked.

Rivard expressed concern that the proposed amendment states the facility must be licensed by the state prior to receiving a conditional use permit.

“The cart’s ahead of the horse right there,” he said. “It just isn’t feasible.”

Rivard noted that he would need to approve the zoning as part of the facility application to the state.

“Until the state is ready to write their permanent licenses, these licenses are actually going to be written by township, not by the state,” he explained, adding that there may not be state licensing available when the property in Mueller Township, which prompted the zoning changes, applies for a conditional use permit. “What they’ve done is they‘ve allowed for provisional licensing. Therefore, the conditional use of that … piece of property or that lot, has to be approved first before they can even apply for a license.”

Rivard stated that the wording of the proposed ordinance amendments will be changed to reflect this.

“The townships or municipalities in Michigan that opted in by the December deadline are allowed to, if they have their ordinance in place, license these facilities if they are in an area zoned for the facility or if no zoning exists, until June of 2018,” explained Rivard.

Since Mueller Township met this deadline, the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance would clear the way for any of the following conditional use permits for medical marijuana-centered businesses: marijuana growers, marijuana processors, marijuana safety compliance facilities, and marijuana secure transporters. Rivard noted that if the facility is granted a provisional license from the township, the state will still need to approve the permanent license.

“That’s going to be up to the state to do,” he said.

There will still be time for other townships or cities to opt in to allow facilities, Rivard explained, but only after the state begins issuing permanent licensing, which may or may not begin on time in June.

“Any township in this county that wants to get it can do it,” he said.

Unlike a variance, Rivard said the conditional use permit, once issued, will not stay with the property, if transferred, unless it’s on ongoing use.

“If it’s a conditional use, which this would be, then it only stays with that property as long as that property is being used and the conditions of the conditional use are being followed,” he said.

Zoning board member Peter Hood questioned the section of the proposed amendment which outlines the use of an activated carbon filtration system to control any potential odor from a facility.

“There shouldn’t be. In investigating that, if there’s odor problems, then that facility isn’t in compliance,” Rivard explained. “That would mean somebody needs to be looking at their system and that’s where the inspectors come in.”

He added that there are minimum setback stipulations in the amendment which state a facility must be 50 feet from all property lines. Outdoor production has setbacks of 100 feet. If a potential problem presents itself, Rivard said the setbacks could be reexamined.

“It’s a case by case basis – that’s the reason for doing a conditional use (permit),” he explained.

Rivard noted that the ordinance amendments also include regulation of lighting and stipulations for keeping business conducted within the facility.

Hood also expressed concern about adequate housing options for any outside employees who would be potentially hired by a growing facility. Rivard explained that a stipulation that the employer provide housing could be including as part of the conditional use permit requirements.

Mueller Township resident Jerry Glasscock pointed out that those interested in establishing marijuana facilities are eager to comply with the regulations put in place by both the county and state.

“The goal is to do this right. We’re not wanting to create ‘pot central’ – we’ve dealt with enough stigma over the last few decades … it’s our goal to be a model, not just here in the state, but in the country, on how to do this right, how to spur the economy and how to create jobs,” he said. “It’s just regular people that want to see this done right … Just give it a chance – that’s all we’re asking.”

Zoning board member Craig Reiter made a motion to send the proposed amendments to the ordinance, along with the suggested corrections to the licensing process, to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners with a recommendation for approval. The motion was unanimously approved.

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