SOUTH HAVEN — Four months ago, South Haven City Council members asked the city planning commission to come up with an ordinance regarding regulation of medical and recreational marijuana businesses in town. Now the decision of whether to allow such businesses rests with the council.
Earlier this month planners voted 6-1 to recommend zoning ordinance amendments that if approved by the city council will allow cannabis-related businesses to locate in three sections of town, located east of Blue Star Highway and south of Aylworth Avenue.
But don’t expect any quick decision from the city council.
“I’ve said for the last two years this has got to be a slow walk,” City Manager Brian Dissette said. “We have to make every effort to allow the public to be aware and engaged and to have ample opportunity to speak with the council about it.”
The council’s first step will be to host a meeting with planners to go over their recommendations.
“We’d like to have the planners explain why they did what they did before council takes any action,” Dissette said.
Next city staff will work with the council to determine when they’d like to publicly discuss the recommendations.
“Do we want to make this July-August or September-October,” Dissette said.
The proposed zoning ordinance amendments allow for six different types of cannabis establishments to locate on city property east of Blue Star Highway and south of Aylworth Avenue in districts that are zoned either industrial or business.
The first area includes commercial areas on Phoenix Road, east of Blue Star and the Interstate-196 Business Park and property along 73rd Street and 2nd Avenue, east of Blue Star. The second area is on the southern limits of the city bordered by Blue Star, 8th Avenue, M-43 Highway and I-196, while the third is an industrial section of the city south of Aylworth to the city limits along Kalamazoo and Lovejoy streets.
The six types of businesses would include growing operations, processors, medical marijuana provisioning centers, recreational marijuana retailers, safety compliance labs and secure transporters.
The proposed ordinance also stipulates businesses must be located at least 200 feet from churches, schools and parks.
Planners originally considered an ordinance that would have allowed various types of marijuana businesses to locate throughout town, with the exception of the downtown central business district. But after several meetings and input from the public, Commissioner Larry Heinig proposed the overlay zone in an area of the city that has very few residences.
“I think it’s easier to describe, easier to enforce, it makes a smaller footprint,” he said last week. In recommending the proposed cannabis ordinance, planners also passed an amendment to require processors and growers to take measures to control odor emanating from their facilities.
Planning Chairman Tim Stegeman was the only planner to cast a no vote. He questioned whether limiting marijuana establishments to one section of town is a good idea. He even suggested that planners send three recommendations to the city council – a proposed ordinance that would allow marijuana establishments to locate throughout town depending on what type of operation they are; a proposed ordinance allowing them to only locate east of Blue Star Highway; and a recommendation to opt out of the state’s new recreational marijuana law that makes such businesses legal.
“Give them all three and let them have a public hearing, receive more citizen input and then make a decision,” Stegeman said. “Let them delve into what options they think are best.”
But other planners disagreed.
“They (the city council) didn’t ask us to make three recommendations,” Heinig said. “‘We were asked to give a recommendation. I think that’s what we should do.”
Janice Varney agreed. “We can present our recommendation, that doesn’t necessarily mean they (the city council) have to follow our recommendation.”
Planner Bill Neiss stated, “We’ve spent a lot of time studying this. Never was opt-out suggested until tonight. The public has had plenty of time to talk with us before we reached this point. I’m comfortable with a compromise. I think the overlay still allows fair opportunity for businesses to investigate whether it’s feasible for them.”