MENOMINEE—The Menominee City Council Monday unanimously approved an ordinance adding marijuana establishments to certain zoning districts in town. This ordinance will allow for the possibility of marijuana establishments to open in areas zoned C-1, M-1 and M-2, as well as C-2 with a special use permit.

“In the committee, if you remember,” said Councilmember Bill Plemel, “there was a big discussion about the D-1 area and whether or not it should be allowed there with a special use permit. There was some discussion on that tonight; I don’t know, maybe some of you want to have it in there after all.”

Earlier on in the meeting during the public comment period, Joe Dulak, the broker/owner of State Wide Real Estate in Menominee, said the previous drafts of the ordinance had included permission for marijuana establishments in C-1, C-2 and D-1 districts. “The draft before you totally excludes the D-1 zoning district. I do know that the D-1 zoning district has been a topic of discussion to eliminate it completely, but unfortunately nothing has been done to formally address it, so whether we like it or not it’s absolutely that we address D-1 as a current and existing classification,” he said.

He said some of the more notable areas zoned D-1 include Nerat Merchandising and the former Van’s IGA building, and he said because of their commercial zoning classification and location, he believed the council should amend the ordinance to include them and other D-1 zoned districts.

“When we discussed this in JL/PL (Judicial and Legislative/Personnel and Labor Committee), I had the minutes from the Planning Commission, wherein they deliberately were excluding D-1 based on following the current master plan,” said Mayor Jean Stegeman.

Also during public comment, Rita Tsalyuk, a potential applicant for one of the marijuana permits, said she has been looking at some properties in Menominee for her business. She said her business is already established in Colorado and other areas of Michigan, and has been in the industry for more than five years. “It’s important for the applicants to know a few things, and one of those is zoning. Second, the number of businesses that will be allowed and if that will be limited by zoning, or limited by number and what the process is to apply. Maybe that information is already available, and I apologize in that case for taking your time, but if you could please guide us and let us know,” she said.

“I think there were two basic points of criticism,” said Councilmember Frank Pohlmann. “One was, for potential investors, the process would be somewhat cumbersome if they were to ask for a special use permit, and it was also somewhat subjective.”

He said the JL/PL Committee took the step to eliminate the need for a special use permit in C-1, M-1 and M-2 districts for the majority of possible marijuana facilities. “That reflected exactly what this council asked for, for less red tape and easier process. Then we had the second type of comment, where councilmembers asked for less proximity between establishments and residential areas, and that’s why we took D-1 out of it. We also didn’t want to do the work of the Planning Commission, since they are working on eliminating D-1 altogether, and bringing it into different types of zoning codes, and that is still a possibility under this ordinance,” he said.

Pohlmann said the ordinance was about “as good as it gets” as it was presented.

Councilmember Doug Robinson asked if a potential investor who wanted to invest in a property zoned D-1 such as the former Van’s IGA would have to put in a request to the Zoning Commission to try to rezone the property or to the Planning Commission. “Or, can we just address it tonight with a simple amendment adding D-1 running the Highway 41/10th Street corridor from 30th Avenue to 56th avenue with a special use permit process?” he said.

Plemel suggested that the council pass the ordinance the way it is and amend it later. “If we need to amend it, we can. We can go after it in particular on this one item only; the rest of the ordinance is fine. What Frank brought up is very true about getting special use permit sections out. As much as I’d like to see D-1 included, to try to do it tonight we’d just delay it even more,” he said.

Dennis Klitzke agreed with Plemel. “There’s people out there that want to invest, but we need to move ahead with this.”

Councilmember Steve Fifarek asked City Attorney Mike Celello what would happen to the areas zoned D-1 should it be formally removed. Celello said the areas zoned D-1 would likely be redefined as one of the other districts. “Looking at your maps in the past, I would say they would be one of your C districts with a few exceptions,” he said.

Councilmember Heather Nelson added that in future amendments the setback from places such as daycares should be defined more clearly. Councilmember Josh Jones asked Derek Schultz, the city’s building inspector, how the setback is currently being defined. “No one’s given me direction on that yet; I’ve been going property to property with alcohol establishments, but state law says it’s front door to front door, so I’m looking for some clarification,” Schultz said.

Celello said the normal setback is from building to building, however he said the council could direct him to define it in any way they choose when adding the amendments in the future. “I will tell you that in my interpretations, it has always been brick-and-mortar to brick-and-mortar, so the council is free to exercise discretion and instruct me to list it as property line to property line or brick-and-mortar to brick-and-mortar,” he said.

City Manager Tony Graff said the marijuana application packets will be made available Jan. 27.