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Middleville council refines the language of the marijuana ordinance

By Greg Chandler

06 Aug 2021

Middleville Village Council continues to change the language on legalizing marijuana businesses in the village. Meeting in Committee of the Whole Tuesday, the board removed a provision from the ordinance that would have required a company to include a security plan as part of its implementation, including alarms, recording or monitoring devices and devices security guard. Administrator Mike Cramer, who proposed the removal, expressed concern about a potential security breach where sensitive information could be made public. Cramer brought forward his motion after council received comments from Shawn Benner, owner of the Kenai Red Group, which operates a medical marijuana supply center in Baltimore Township. Benner told the council via Zoom that the state already has detailed security requirements for a marijuana operation. “I don’t want the copy of these plans in the village whether they are publicly available or not because if we have a data breach that’s a problem,” Cramer said. “If the state requires it, then I’m okay with that.” The security plan requirement had been included in the scoring criteria against which license applicants would be assessed. The deletion would probably mean that the grading rubric would have to be changed. Administrator Kevin Smith agreed with Cramer’s concern about potential liability. “It is too common for municipalities our size to get smoked as part of a cyber liability or cyber event,” said Smith. “It’s a mess to clean up, especially if something happens as a result of it [breach], if sensitive data is shared. The council is considering two ordinances, linked to each other, that would legalize the marijuana businesses in the village. The proposal is expected to be sent back to the board for potential final action on August 24. One of the ordinances would allow marijuana businesses in areas zoned for commercial or industrial use on highways. The other would set a limit on the number of licenses issued, as well as the license application process and standards that must be met for approval, said Deputy City Manager and Planning and Zoning Administrator Brian Urquhart. “We are authorizing them as a special land use that would receive the approval and review of the planning commission,” Urquhart said. “Following this process… it would be submitted to the village director for review and issuance of a license. Village attorney Mark Nettleton added that an applicant who is denied a license for a marijuana business can appeal. “The ordinance … sets up a process whereby, if there is a denial of the business license, the applicant can appeal to the village council to make a decision as to the correctness of the denial,” said Nettleton said. The regulatory ordinance would place a cap of five total licenses throughout the village, including two for retail. Retail businesses and supply centers that offer medical marijuana would only be allowed in commercial areas on freeways, primarily along the M-37. Cultivation operations would only be allowed in industrial areas, mainly on the north side of the village. Recreational processing operations, secure transport operations and safety compliance facilities would be permitted as special land uses in commercial and industrial areas of highways. “Once these approvals are obtained on the zoning side by the planning commission, the applicant can then come forward and submit their business license application,” Nettleton said. “This is first reviewed by the clerk to determine that it is administratively complete – basically all the boxes are checked and the information is provided. Once it is determined that it is administratively complete, it is reviewed by the manager, and the manager gives approval or denial. The village director must review a completed application and decide whether to approve or deny a business license within 21 days. If the request is denied, an applicant has 10 days to appeal, Nettleton said. Applicants must pay a non-refundable fee of $ 5,000 as part of their application. The permits are expected to be renewed annually, Nettleton said. In November 2018, voters in Middleville backed passage of Proposition 1, the measure that legalized recreational marijuana in the state. Of the village’s 1,321 voters who voted in the election, 793 voted yes and 528 voted no, according to Barry County election records. In January 2020, the village council asked the planning commission to work on developing a marijuana ordinance. Fewer than 20 people showed up for a public hearing in June at Thornapple Kellogg High School on the ordinances. Only four people spoke at the hearing – one in favor of the proposal, two to reject it and one who took a neutral stance. A council member objected to a limit of five permits for the village. Council administrator Ed Schellinger said he would support two retail licenses, but opposed approval of any other licenses for cultivation or other marijuana-based operations. “Personally, I think five is too much,” said Schellinger. “Personally, I have a feeling that the city, when it hears that we have five marijuana businesses in our little village, is going to stand up on its hind legs and [charge into town]. Schellinger asked Nettleton if it was possible for the board to approve the number of licenses to be issued before the blanket orders were approved. Nettleton did not see this idea as feasible. “I would like the board to pass an order. full regulatory that would specify that agreed number, “Nettleton said.” I wouldn’t want you to have a stand-alone ordinance that says we’re going to create three marijuana businesses, period, and then a separate ordinance that says for those marijuana business licenses , that’s the process you’re following, “Nettleton added. The two-license limit proposed by Schellinger has met with opposition from his colleagues.” They couldn’t grow it here. They wouldn’t be able to grow it here. to treat it here… “said Cramer.” I think that’s why we picked five [overall licenses] and only two retail licenses. We wanted to limit the public face of what was being sold here. “Can’t they go to Grand Rapids, or they can’t go to Holland or wherever it grows, and buy it there?” Can’t it be delivered here? Schellinger asked. “If we allow business in our community, this is a legal business,” Cramer said. “Why don’t we give them the opportunity to develop their own product so that they can sell it? This reduces their cost. Smith offered an analogy with the breweries. “I just want to remind everyone in the room here that it’s as legal as a craft brewery and / or a microbrewery,” Smith said. “We have five outlets in this city where you can buy alcohol, but we limit [marijuana retailers] two, so we are more restrictive. “If West Michigan Beerhaulers or whatever decided to set up a distribution center in our business district and hire 400 employees, we would probably applaud it. I think the opportunity here is, what’s the difference, other than marijuana, and it’s a substance that is legally sold in the state of Michigan. I think the business opportunity and the ability to reach a market where it will create jobs is very high. “


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