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IM sets hearing on medical marijuana

IRON MOUNTAIN — Rules to regulate medical marijuana facilities in the city are ready for adoption and will be the subject of a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 3.

The hearing comes six months after Iron Mountain City Council signaled it would allow medical marijuana dispensaries, along with growing and processing facilities. A draft ordinance approved Monday allows up to two of each. There will be an open application period of 45 days once it takes effect.

“It’s an important vote for the city,” said council member Pam Maule, encouraging citizen participation at the upcoming hearing. “We haven’t heard a lot from the public.”

At least three potential investors have approached the council in the past about facilities rules and zoning.

The state has established a Bureau of Marijuana Regulation to oversee medical marijuana facilities and licensees — including growers, processors, transporters, provisioning centers and safety compliance facilities, all of which are permitted under the city’s ordinance. By state requirements, processing and growing must take place in an industrial-zoned area.

The city’s proposed zoning would allow dispensaries in commercial areas as long as they are least 500 feet from a school.

If the number of applicants exceeds the city’s licensing quota, a scoring system will be used to narrow the field. The scoring criteria must be finalized by the council, but it will include factors such as the number of employees, the total investment, pre-approval for licensure by the state, and having more than one licensed activity at the site.

Iron Mountain’s proposed application fee for a medical marijuana facility is $1,500 per license and the proposed annual fee for a facility license is $5,000.

The vote to schedule the hearing was 4-0. Council member Kyle Blomquist abstained because of a conflict with his architectural business. Mayor Dale Alessandrini, who had said he might also abstain because of a potential business conflict, told the council that’s no longer the case. Council member Juan Saldana was absent.

A replacement for Amanda List, who has resigned from her Ward 3 seat, will be named by the council next month.

The council has yet to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana facilities, with City Manager Jordan Stanchina noting state rules aren’t yet in place. Under the recreational marijuana law approved by Michigan voters last November, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has until Dec. 6 to develop administrative rules and begin taking applications for commercial sales and production.

About a quarter of Michigan’s communities have decided to ban recreational marijuana businesses, according to a Detroit Free Press report.

In other action Monday, the Iron Mountain council:

— Heard residents Lori Mellon and Sally Beauchamp share concerns about blight enforcement. Some problems, including piles of junk, linger for years, they said in separate statements. “It’s not for lack of trying,” Stanchina said in response. The city sometimes does its own cleanups and puts a charge on the owner’s property tax bill, although Stanchina acknowledged it’s “probably not as fast as people would like.” Alessandrini said he also is frustrated, adding “We’ll get on it as best as the law allows us to.”

— Adopted the 2019-20 fiscal year budget after receiving no comments during a public hearing. The tax levy for city purposes is 20.7809 mills, the same as the past four years.

— Heard Chad Sussott introduce plans by the Dickinson Trails Network to build and maintain a mountain bike course on Millie Hill. Talks will continue with the city as former mine site risks are addressed. Blomquist complimented the group on “a good proposal.”

— Approved the purchase of security cameras and related network equipment from Teck Solutions to help monitor the perimeters of city buildings as well as some interior parts. A grant from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority will cover a third of the estimated $8,000 cost. The city will handle the physical installation of the cable and cameras.

— Agreed to seek bids for a used sidewalk plow. The current machine dates to 2006 and the cost of a new unit is about $130,000, Stanchina said. A 2012 model in good condition has been located, but sealed bids are required because the purchase exceeds $20,000.

— Noted a redesigned city website is up and running, bringing substantial improvements to the mobile version.

— Heard Stanchina report all of the streets designated for paving this year have been crushed and will be paved in the next few weeks.

— Authorized expenses for Maule and council member Nathan Zemar to attend the Michigan Municipal League’s U.P. Education Summit in Escanaba on June 6-7.

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