News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
The former clinic at the corner of 12th Ave and Chisholm Street in Alpena currently sits unused. That could change if the Alpena Planning Commission approves a special-use permit to Zella Cannabis, who would like to open an adult-use marijuana shop on the property. A public hearing on the permit will be held on June 14.

ALPENA — Fresh off public outcry about having a marijuana shop open near a residential area in Alpena, the Alpena Planning Commission will have to consider another request from a developer hoping to do the same.

At a public hearing on June 14, the planning commission will consider a special-use permit for Zella Cannabis, which intends to open an adult-use marijuana shop at the corner of 12th Ave and Chisholm Street next to McDonalds.

Residents within 300 feet of the property have been sent letters seeking comment through correspondence or during the public hearing which is slated for 6 p.m. on June 14 inside the council chambers at City Hall.

In the city’s zoning ordinance, the city doesn’t allow for marijuana shops to open in the Alpena Downtown Development Authority district.

The DDA is considering expansion and it is unknown if the ordinance will need to be amended, or — if Zella Cannabis is granted the permit before the DDA expansion — if it will be grandfathered in and allowed to operate.

Mayor Matt Waligora said the planning commission can only consider current information and can’t take future changes in circumstances into its decision making process. He said it is possible that if the permit is granted, and later the DDA expands, an amendment to the zoning ordinance may be needed.

“It is too early in the expansion process to consider how that will affect the marijuana ordinance, if and when the expansion happens,” Waligora said. “The current ordinance will stay in effect as written until then.”

Last month, the Alpena Municipal Council approved a permit for Meds Cafe for a marijuana shop on Campbell Street after the planning commission twice denied it. The second denial was due to the board having a tie vote, which automatically denied the permit.

During its April and May meetings, many people who live in the neighborhood near the location for the proposed Meds Cafe voiced their opposition, which resonated with the board. However, council voted to issue the permit because the special-use application met all the criteria in the city’s zoning ordinance for marijuana businesses.

The city was also forced into litigation with Meds Cafe, which claimed the permit denial was unwarranted because all of the factors in the permitting process were met. Issuing the permit was part of the settlement.

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