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IONIA — With a lull in requests for special land use permits and site plan reviews for marijuana businesses, the Ionia Planning Commission is turning its attention back to the city’s master plan and development and redevelopment efforts. But not before they decided at their meeting Wednesday to ask the Ionia City Council for a tweak to the list of parks in the city that provide a buffer for marijuana provisioning centers.

After continuing a discussion from their meeting last month, Planning Commission members voted to approve submitting an amended resolution listing city parks, adding Wetland Park and Steele Park by name and parcel number, since neither parks actually exist at present. Both parks, which would border Steele Street, are included in the city’s long-range recreation plan.

City Manager Jason Eppler said he used a tool in the graphic information system to map out the two parcels to add a 500-foot radius on each one “to get an idea of what would be included in the buffering,” he said.

Marijuana provisioning centers may not be within 500 feet of a city park, according to the Ionia marijuana ordinance.

“This is probably a little conservative compared to how it would actually be done under the ordinance,” Eppler added. “You see it covers it pretty well.”

Planning Commissioner Ted Paton said the maps would make clear what areas would be considered “off-limits” for provisioning centers.

“It’s another way for us to graphically show how we can be consistent with anybody coming in,” said Paton. “And so far our actions are what we are seeing here on the maps. … It’s another way to be transparent to anyone looking to come in.”

Planning Commissioner Ryan Videtich noted that the maps also reduces any subjectivity about “what is appropriate and what is not” in decision-making by the commission, and may reduce some of the emotion he said he has seen around decisions, such as the recent one around 300 S. Steele St.

“Something like this paints some of those guidelines a little more appropriately to someone that’s interested,” Videtich said.

The maps also would help define acceptable locations for provisioning centers beyond Steele Street as well. If the parcels where Caswell RV now sits and the vacant lot next to Burger King were to sell, those properties also would be within the ring of the buffering zone, said Tim Lee, the City Council’s liaison to the Planning Commission. The addition of Wetland Park to the list would help the Planning Commission make decisions on M-66, because the proposed park also would front that roadway, which is only fair, noted Planning Commission Chairman Boomer Hoppough.

“What I don’t want to see is people spend a lot of time and money and resources and slow down our progress at other things that we’re trying to accomplish,” Hoppough said.

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