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No retail marijuana expansion at this time, IM council says

IRON MOUNTAIN — There are no immediate plans to expand the number of marijuana dispensaries allowed in Iron Mountain, but the city council will revisit the issue in April when progress is gauged on the two projects that qualified.

Due to the pandemic slowing construction, the council in September extended the deadline for Rize Cannabis and Lume Cannabis to begin operations to April 1. But at an Oct. 5 meeting, council member Nathan Zemar introduced a twist by proposing expanded permits, or maybe no cap at all.

“To change this ordinance now, nobody’s going to believe us anymore,” Mayor Dale Alessandrini said Monday as the council debated its next step.

This past weekend, Rize opened a curbside dispensary at its 1580 N. Stephenson Ave. facility, one of two retail shops authorized by the city council in January.

Rize has promised a $5 million investment for a retail outlet and growing facility, while Lume plans a $2.18 million project that includes renovating a pair of dilapidated downtown buildings.

A council committee reviewed a possible expansion of permits last week, failing to reach a consensus. Monday’s vote to table Zemar’s idea drew little objection, although council member Kyle Blomquist said the city is sending mixed signals.

“If you plan on adding businesses, then do it now,” he said. “Relieve those applicants of their obligations to the city.”

Blomquist has abstained from voting on the matter because he’s provided architectural services to a marijuana business.

Rize committed to at least 60 jobs in gaining its licensing foothold and has long-range plans to grow as many as 7,000 plants for both the medical and recreational markets. A portion of its growing and processing operation has already been completed.

Lume plans a retail shop at 117 and 119 S. Stephenson Ave., where structures from the late 1800s are being rehabilitated. The company envisions a growing and processing facility on the west side of Hydraulic Falls Road between Stephenson Avenue and Breitung Cutoff Road, potentially serving all of its U.P. market and contributing to its promised 20 jobs.

Alessandrini said the city shouldn’t put the tax revenues and economic benefits from the Rize and Lume operations at risk. “It blows my mind that some of you people don’t understand that,” he said.

Zemar, however, said there shouldn’t be a downside to having a free market. “We never said there’s only going to be two provisioning centers forever,” he said.

The dispensary cap, meanwhile, hasn’t chased away all other projects. Superior Selections, which finished out of the running for a retail license, has opened a growing and processing facility on East Smith Street, where local investors transformed a vacant warehouse with an initial $1 million investment.

Both Rize and Lume are owned by downstate interests.

Also during Monday’s meeting, conducted via Zoom, the council:

— Delayed until Nov. 2 a decision on allowing Dr. John Cook to donate a former medical clinic on 2 acres of property at 1001 S. Hemlock St. to Family Baptist Church, currently in East Kingsford. The city’s permission is needed because the deed includes a clause requiring the former city property be used for medical clinic purposes. Efforts since 2014 to sell the building have been futile, Cook said. Although the current taxable value of $102,800 would fall to zero under church ownership, the council was agreeable. Public input will be invited in the meantime.

— Agreed to hire Anderson Appraisal of Escanaba at a cost of $6,500 to independently assess the value of the Flagstar Bank property in Iron Mountain. In an appeal filed with the Michigan Tax Tribunal, Flagstar is seeking a taxable value of $350,000 for its bank branch at 1805 S. Stephenson Ave. The city had set a 2020 taxable value of $840,200. In December 2018, Flagstar acquired 52 Wells Fargo branches in the Midwest, including 14 in the Upper Peninsula.

— Accepted a grant of $5,000 from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to improve election safety. The grant will pay for additional voting booths and electrostatic sprayers to sanitize polling stations. CTCL is a Chicago-based non-profit group that has launched a COVID-19 Response Grant Program, aided by funding from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. In another election matter, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that 1,100 absentee ballots have been returned, which already exceeds the total from the 2016 election.

— Accepted a $15,850 quote from Kleiman Pump & Well Drilling of Breitung Township to replace a pump in a water system well. The faulty pump was discovered during a well rehabilitation project being conducted by Kleiman after competitive bidding.

— Heard Stanchina report the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services awarded $8,481 to 56 utility customers to assist with past-due bills through its water assistance program.

— Learned that eight deer have been culled so far during the city’s managed archery hunt.

— Noted curbside leaf pickups will get underway this week. Loose leaves are to be placed at the edge of the lawn next to the street, not in the gutter or on the pavement. The Department of Public Works compost site will be open until Nov. 8.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500, ext. 226, or janderson@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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