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KALAMAZOO, MI (WKZO AM/FM) — The Kalamazoo Planning Commission held a virtual meeting Wednesday night to discuss proposed changes to zoning ordinances regarding recreational marijuana shops in the city.

The commission already held a series of public input meetings for citizens to attend and comment on, but some had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Previously, the Kalamazoo city commission last fall decided to postpone a vote on allowing the businesses because officials wanted to wait and hear more opinions from the public and assess how other communities had found success with their rules.

Commissioners at that point set a deadline of June 2020 for when they would like to see the final resolution be approved.

The Planning Commission approved recommendations Wednesday night for what these new zoning rules would look like. This was on a first read.

Under the recommendations, new categories of shops have been added. Kalamazoo already has ordinances for the categories of grower, processor, safety compliance laboratory, secure transporter, and shops/retailers for pre-existing medical marijuana businesses.

The newly-added categories include micro-business, excess grower, and a designated consumption lounge where marijuana use is allowed on site, but not available for purchase.

The recommendations say that none of these types of establishments would be allowed to operate in a residential zone neighborhood, and each business type has its own regulations.

After the meeting Wednesday night, the language now makes provisions that Consumption lounges and retailers could not operate in a zone designated as Commercial Central Business District (CCBD).

It also makes a provision that a micro-business does not have to adhere to the 500 ft. distance rule when operating in a Limited Manufacturing (M-1) or General Manufacturing (M-2) area.

There is currently no limit to how many businesses could operate in the city, but Planning Commissioners said each one would need a medical marijuana license granted by the state to sell recreational products.

According to a draft of the proposed city ordinance, businesses would have to adhere to the following rules:

  • A marijuana establishment is prohibited from operating in any residential zoning district or in a residential unit.
  • A licensee may not operate a marijuana establishment at any place in the City other than the address provided in the application on file with the City Clerk.
  • A licensee must operate the licensed establishment in compliance with all applicable State and City regulations for that type of establishment.

As far as location, businesses must meet the following criteria in order to operate. This does not apply to Safety Compliance Operations:

  • A marijuana establishment must not operate within 1,000 feet of a pre-existing private or public school, providing education in kindergarten or any grades 1 through 12.
  • A marijuana establishment must not operate within 500 feet of a pre-existing State-licensed childcare center.
  • The required distance is measured in a straight line from the nearest property line of a protected use to the nearest portion of the building or unit in which the marijuana establishment is located.
  • Marijuana establishments may operate from a location shared with an equivalent licensed marijuana facility.

These recommendations were ultimately approved by the commissioners on first read. They will now be submitted to the city commission for further consideration.

“[I just want to thank] the city commissioners and planning commissioners for coming together and getting public comment and helping move this process along,” Commissioner Shardae Jones-Chambers said.

A full list of different zoning regulations for each business type, as well as a map overlay and all related documents, can be viewed online at the City of Kalamazoo website.

— Joshua Scott contributed to this article. —

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