CALUMET — The village of Calumet’s legal counsel determined Wednesday a majority of council members present was not enough to pass a recreational marijuana ordinance at Tuesday’s village meeting, Village Manager Caleb Katz said Wednesday.
By a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the council favored Ordinance 153, which would set the distances from other facilities required for a recreational marijuana retailer or microbusiness to operate.
At first, that appeared to be enough to move on to a related ordinance. However, upon further review, Katz determined approval required four votes — a majority of the council, which has six people.
It will go back to the village’s ordinance committee.
Two ordinances were on Tuesday’s agenda.
Ordinance 127 laid out the zones where recreational marijuana retailers or microbusinesses would be allowed. The ordinance lists the C-1 general commercial district, C-2 downtown commercial district and I-1 light industry district. The ordinance relies upon definitions included in Ordinance 153, so was set aside until that ordinance passed.
Most of the discussion of Ordinance 153 centered around proposed amendments to the buffering requirements for a marijuana business. A strict 1,000-foot limit would have effectively shut out marijuana businesses in the village, outside a small part of the city’s industrial area, President David Geisler said.
Councilor Andrew Ranville proposed buffers reduced from the draft ordinance brought to Tuesday’s meeting. The buffer for a building used solely as a single-family, primary residence or residence with a homestead exemption within the C-1, C2, or I-1 districts would drop from 500 feet to 125 feet.
At a previous meeting, 100 feet had been agreed upon as the distance for two storefronts separating a single-family home located within the business district, Councilor Roxanne King said.
For schools or places of worship, the buffer would be dropped to 500 feet. The distance from a drug or alcohol rehab center would stay at 1,000 feet. They would also still not be allowed within a residentially-zoned district or area used for residential purposes.
It also capped the number of marijuana businesses at three.
At recent meetings, most of the audience had been in favor of allowing recreational marijuana, even with smaller buffers, Ranville said.
“I can’t in good conscience ignore the will of the people as a representative of them,” he said. “It’s here I think we’ve got to find an equitable solution that is most palatable to all.”
In his research, Ranville found no instances of a municipality or district losing funding as a result of reduced buffers. There had not been feedback from parents saying they would pull their children out of the district, he said; no students had weighed in one way or the other.
King suggested specifically exempting a Sixth Street building from the 500-foot buffer, as it was purchased by the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw after the process of drafting the ordinance began. The district intends to use it as a distance learning center.
“Otherwise, we’re dead in the water, because they’re going to come in next January and say we have to shut it down because there’s a school there,” she said.
After first opposing a reduction in buffer space to 500 feet, the district now supports it, Geisler said.
Ranville’s amendment made no specific mention of the Sixth Street building, but excluded schools that fell within the C-1 or C-2 districts.
Former council member Virginia Dwyer said it would be risky to make such a move without consulting the village attorney. Geisler agreed. With so much of the discussion focusing on one building, Geisler said, it could still open the village up to a lawsuit for unequal treatment.
“To be blunt, all they’d have to do is play this recording, and it’d be obvious we’re singling out 311 Sixth St. for special treatment,” he said.
King said the change would benefit the most people while causing the least grief.
“As a person pondering the future zoning of this community, there are lots of restrictions on school property,” she said. “And if we are to take all of them into consideration, that building at 311 Sixth St. puts a real crimp on our future economic development in the village.”
Brian Abramson, Ranville and King voted in favor of the ordinance; Geisler and Douglas Harrer voted against it.
Once the council determined the first ordinance had failed, Ranville amended the ordinance to remove the differential treatment for schools in the business districts. The revised ordinance yielded the same 3-2 vote.
The council then voted 4-1 to send the ordinance back to the ordinance committee.
“This is pretty sad,” said Ranville, who cast the one vote against. “I’m not begrudging anybody based on the way they voted. We’re here to represent our constituents, and we’re failing at that. I’m pretty ashamed.”
“That’s your opinion,” Harrer replied.
King said she was disappointed in the result, which she said went against the will of most people in the village.
“It seemed to come down to three or four individuals who started grasping at straws to prevent it when they heard how much support there was,” she said. “I am still willing to go either way, but really feeling the majority of people in Calumet want a marijuana shop and there is a very vocal minority trying to prevent it. That’s not how democracies work.”
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