STANTON — The Stanton Planning Commission is continuing to hammer out the details for a marijuana ordinance draft to be presented to the Stanton City Commission.
Last week, the Planning Commission met for their regular meeting to continue going over the details to be included in the upcoming ordinance that, if approved, would allow for medical and adult-use marijuana facilities within city limits.
In attendance of the meeting was Tim Johnson of MainStreet Planning Co. of Grand Rapids, who was recently approved by the City Commission to assist the Planning Commission in drafting the adult-use portion of the proposed ordinance.
Before beginning the conversation on marijuana, Stanton Mayor and Planning Commission Secretary Lori Williams read a strongly-worded letter from City Commissioner Ray Holloway sent to the Planning Commission on the matter.
“(The Planning Commission) wants to allow unlimited number of marijuana businesses and will not restrict all types of use,” the letter read in part. “They want to remove all buffering except for a state-mandated buffering for schools. Why would they not buffer city parks, the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail or even Maddie’s Park? Why would they not buffer our churches, daycare facilities and rehab centers?
“Perhaps (the City Commission) should have indicated we’d like to protect our city as much as possible from future litigations considering licensing, nuisances such as traffic and/or crime, odor, property evaluation and equity considerations. There may be other considerations such as discrimination, selective enforcement, favoritism, etc. Make no mistake, there are people that use this new, legal use of marijuana as a money maker — not just by a licensed business, but there are what I call vultures waiting to prey on municipalities that do not have adequate protection.”
Agreeing that many of Holloway’s concerns would be addressed in the proposed ordinance, Johnson asked whether commissioners wanted the City Commission to be the approving authority for granting marijuana facility licenses.
“The only thing is that it’s a sensitive community issue,” Johnson noted. “If you felt that it needed a bit more review and to let the elected officials bear the responsibility of making the final decision rather than the Planning Commission, that’d be one reason to have the City Commission have a final decision on marijuana facilities.”
“We get paid for being on the City Commission, so we ought to have that responsibility ourselves,” Commissioner Charles Miel noted.
With the rest of commissioners in agreement, conversation then turned to the type, number and location of marijuana facilities that should be included in the ordinance.
While commissioners agreed that growing and processing facilities should be zoned as industrial, Miel thought there should be no limit as to how many would be allowed in Stanton.
“The biggest money-makers are growing and processing,” he noted. “The more we get, the more employment and tax-based increased we’d bring in. I don’t see a problem with having any more.”
“I don’t see a reason to limit. If we feel we’re getting too many, I think we can change the limit, right?” Williams asked, which Johnson confirmed was correct.
Commissioners agreed provisioning centers could go in C-1, C-2 or industrial zoning and would be limited to only two within the city. According to Johnson, provisioning centers are the only types of marijuana facilities allowed to advertise their business with signs per the state’s regulations.
“They can have a marijuana leaf on (the sign), but it can’t show any product,” he said. “In other words, they can’t show a cigarette or a brownie, but they can have marijuana leaves in the name. All the other ones aren’t allowed to have a sign as to what they are.”
Commissioners also decided to include that any provisioning center or secure transport in the C-1 zoning district requires 100 feet of separation between the nearest provisioning center or secure transport.
Conversation then turned to buffer zones and whether there are any areas within the approved zoning that marijuana facilities should not be allowed to set-up shop next to.
“Last meeting, we tentatively agreed to a 1,000-foot distance from any marijuana facilities from the school,” Johnson recapped. “The state does not require that. That’s something the city of Stanton decides. You could make it 1,000 feet, you could make to more or you could make it less.”
“When we talked about this before, I was under the wrong impression that the state required it,” Miel explained. “Since we don’t have to do it for the state, I don’t think buffer zones make sense there, either. I don’t understand the theory of what a buffer zone is for. I prefer not to have any buffer zones at all.”
“The purpose of a buffer zone is to make separation of the use, clearly, between what might be considered a special population,” Chairman Don Smucker replied.
“So, separating schools from retail stores and marijuana?” Miel asked. “Why do you need to do that? We don’t do it for liquor stores.”
Other commissioners voiced their support for keeping the 1,000 feet buffering from schools, with Johnson noted that could also include school-owned playgrounds, private schools and the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District buildings, if commissioners felt it was necessary.
Johnson further walked commissioners through some of the regulations set forward by the state before explaining that the proposed ordinance was still in the process of being drafted.
The Planning Commission also received an updated request on the White Pine District Library’s ongoing project to relocate its facility.
In January, the Planning Commission voted to grant the library a special lane use application at 514 New St. — the location in which the library, currently located at 106 E. Walnut St., plans to move into in the near future.
City Manager Vester Davis explained the library has now purchased a piece of land neighboring the 514 New St. location.
“(They’re requesting) the special land use designation is expanded to include the newly purchased parcel,” Davis said. “In our zoning ordinance, this could be considered a major change. The White Pine District Library is requesting the Planning Commission views this additional request as a minor change because there has been no development on the parcel. It would also assist with the drainage concerns on the parcel previously approved for the special land use designation.”
Vice Chairperson Kris Thwaites, who also sits on the library board, said the library doesn’t intend to build anything on the newly acquired space.
“We bought that lot because, one, we don’t want anybody on it because it’s so pretty and great and, two, because of the drainage problem with the main lot,” Thwaites explained. “We can just drain it onto that lot, instead, which will absorb any excess water.”
Since no buildings would go on the new lot, Johnson said the library wouldn’t need the special land use extended onto their new piece of property.
“All you’re doing is buying it,” Johnson noted. “You can buy it, mow it and drain your water on there. You don’t need a special use permit to do any of that.”