Guide for medical marijuana licenses

IM develops scoring system for applications to set up dispensaries, other operations

IRON MOUNTAIN — A scoring system soon will be adopted to evaluate applications for a limited number of medical marijuana licenses being made available in Iron Mountain.

A rubric reviewed Monday by the city council places the greatest emphasis on the applicant’s qualifications and ability to operate, along with the economic impact.

City attorney Gerald Pirkola said the intent of the scoring guide is to make the application process fair, but protests are likely when someone is rejected. “You’re going to get challenged,” he said.

The council June 2 approved both a medical marijuana facilities ordinance and accompanying zoning rules. Potential businesses will have a 45-day application period once the ordinance takes effect in early July. It provides rules to regulate dispensaries, along with growing, processing, transporting and safety compliance facilities. Only two of each will be allowed.

The scoring system gives preference to locating multiple facilities at one location, with the goal of boosting investment. State-licensed growing, processing and provisioning all can be done from one location, but testing cannot be combined with these uses, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said.

The scoring system has 52 possible points, including 19 in the category of ability to operate; 16 for economic impact; 9 for qualifications; and 7 for building design and neighborhood impact. An additional point is available for pre-approved state licensing. Points may be subtracted for previous building violations or having unpaid taxes.

The council plans to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday and might approve the document after further review and clarifications from city staff.

Stanchina noted the council has the ability to amend the scoring rubric in the future, although there is no perfect protection from a dispute.

“There’s potential litigation with any move you make,” he said.

Council member Bill Revord said the city nonetheless should be alert to any weaknesses in the scoring. “You don’t want to invite litigation,” he said.

By state requirements, processing and growing must take place in an industrial-zoned area. The city’s zoning will allow dispensaries in commercial areas as long as they are least 500 feet away from a school.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan for a decade, while voters approved recreational marijuana in November. Michigan’s Bureau of Marijuana Regulation is expected to soon publish emergency rules for recreational marijuana, allowing businesses to apply for sales likely to begin next year.

The council has yet to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana sales.

Stanchina suggested Monday the city might choose to opt out, at least temporarily, to see how medical marijuana plays out.

In other action, the council:

— Heard Revord and Mayor Dale Alessandrini lament a lack of legislative action to curb “dark store” tax appeals. Last week, the city learned Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is appealing the property tax assessment for its supercenter on South Stephenson Avenue, seeking a 22% reduction that would potentially reduce city revenues by more than $23,000 annually. Although many lawmakers object to big-box retailers lowering their assessments by comparing the value of their facilities to empty, shuttered stores, no legislation has made it to the governor’s desk. “It should have been taken care of a long time ago,” Alessandrini said. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce opposes such legislation.

— Adopted year-end budget amendments, noting general property tax revenues were $59,025 below budget as the city lost $7.9 million in taxable value from Michigan Tax Tribunal stipulations.

The city also received $81,124 less than expected in community stabilization funds, a state program that reimburses local taxing entities for revenues lost under personal property tax reform. Heavy snowfall resulted in $22,657 in additional public works spending for wages and benefits. Helping to offset these shortfalls was $93,244 received from timber sales and land sales. In all, the city’s general fund balance on June 30 was pegged at $2.64 million, about $140,000 more than budgeted, thanks in part to two tower lease renewals, Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority distributions, private donations and revenues from fines.

— As recommended by the city planning commission, approved a special use permit for Kimberly Ketcham to provide family child care for up to 12 children at 933 E. D St.

— Filled two vacancies on the planning commission, appointing Michael Martin to a term expiring May 19, 2020, and Holly DeGroot to a term expiring May 19, 2022.

— Reappointed Henry Badini and Tom Healy to the Zoning Board of Appeals for terms expiring June 20, 2022.

— Awarded a bid to Keweenaw Automotive of Houghton to provide a used sidewalk plow, a 2012 M-B MSV, for $35,875.

— Adopted an updated city fee schedule, raising the prices for services and lot purchases at Cemetery Park by 3%. New public works fees will be charged for some services, including a $100 flat fee and $100 per hour for other municipalities to use the city’s new water correlator for leak detection. The charge to contractors is a $250 flat fee and $100 per hour.

— Approved a request from Bob Werner, representing the Dickinson Trail Network, formerly the Dickinson County Bike Path, to help install about 12 bike route trail signs within city limits. This will add signage to routes already being used, including the statewide Iron Belle Trail, he said.

— Opened bids from Kingsford Hardware and U.P. Kobota of Marquette to provide a new riding lawn mower for public works. The bids were referred to staff for review.