Port Huron’s ban on recreational marijuana businesses originally set to expire by the end of this month has been extended for another three months while officials draft local regulations.
Officials have indicated previously that implementing regulation to accommodate recreational marijuana establishments in town was expected to happen in some way, shape or form, citing wide support for cannabis-related measures among city voters over the last several years.
But City Council members OK’d extending the sunset on the moratorium until Sept. 30 at Monday’s regular meeting.
Last week, David Haynes, the city’s planning director, said the biggest reason is that early steps in the process of drafting rules required getting public input — something that’s been hampered by the coronavirus shutdown. With a lack of attendance at open meetings or going multiple months without a planning commission meeting at all, Haynes and City Manager James Freed said they want to give local residents ample time to comment.
Freed told council members on Monday that they have “boilerplate” draft ordinances and planned to hold “numerous work sessions” and bring in cannabis industry experts to “really have a good grasp of what’s happening.” They also plan to have multiple public hearings.
On part of the direction of final regulations, the city manager said, “The public feedback will direct that.”
Haynes said the next steps in the process involved looking at language framework, specifically for zoning marijuana businesses, in the planning department.
Zoning and licensure of marijuana establishments would be handled separately, he said, with zoning going to the planning commission and a licensing proposal going straight to council later this year.
To begin to understand what to propose for discussion, Haynes said they’ve looked at other communities.
“We’re reaching out to those communities to see what worked and what didn’t work,” he said.
City Council members and planning commissioners visited marijuana facilities early this year, which officials said had been a big help to getting their mind around the process of drafting rules.
More on the process
Haynes said in addition to inviting the public to speak, they’re also looking at seeking input through an online survey.
“Once we get valid input and the final draft, we will go to the planning commission for their recommendation for that and it will go on to the City Council or their review,” he said.
Haynes said they were still looking at the city’s schedule and hoped to have a workshop within the next 30 to 45 days. This week, he anticipated fleshing out questions for the survey.
“We’re hoping to get in front of the planning commission probably in July, early August, so everything would be ready for council as we head toward that Sept. 30 (deadline),” he said.
Freed recapped the process for council Monday. In explaining the preparation, he said, “There’s no way we can get that done in 30 days.”
Councilman Scott Worden asked about licenses and how careful the city would be in prescribing how many would be issued and where. Citing the city’s attention on racial equity, he said they should “make sure there’s equal opportunity” among applicants.
Where could cannabis establishments end up?
Although too soon to know specifics, Haynes aid they’ve seen some general trends on where marijuana businesses would be located, such as “quasi-industrial or office areas” for retail. In some cases, he said they look at downtowns.
“We’re kind of having an open pallet and looking to garner input,” Haynes said.
Freed said they’re also careful not to get to specific until planning and council officials have a say, citing “speculators” in the industry who “call us all the time to try and play hot or cold with us in what zoning’s going to look like,” in case it doesn’t come out as city staff propose.
The city manager said he still gets calls with interest in marijuana establishments “twice to three times a day.”
“I think (we) want the public to know this is going to happen to some degree, the ordinance is being drafted, we’ve met with other cities on it and those cities have been helpful,” Freed said. “We really want people to know how much we’re working on this,” he said, adding they’re not “kicking the can down the road.”
Future meeting dates are posted at http://porthuroncitymi.iqm2.com/Citizens/calendar.aspx.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
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