Curbside service rules may change for marijuana businesses

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Big Rapids officials consider changes to ordinance

Big Rapids city commissioners are considering changes to the city's marijuana ordinance that could eliminate curbside service for businesses in the downtown area.

During a meeting this week, community development director Paula Priebe told the board there is a proposed substantive change to the marijuana ordinance regarding curbside sales and dispensing that she wanted to present to the board for feedback.

“This is one we wanted to communicate clearly so that if you have any questions or concerns we can address those,” Priebe said.
“Regarding curbside pick up, that is one area where we had some issues with the ordinance impacting the community early on. That was resolved relatively quickly, but that is one area that there is major change being proposed.”
The ordinance, which currently states, “mobile marijuana facilities and drive through operations are prohibited” would be changed to include “curbside sales and dispensing are allowed only in private, off-street parking lots when a ‘Curbside Sales and Dispensing Designation’ has been approved as part of the Municipal Marihuana Operating Permit.”
“Curbside was prohibited from the get-go, but no one foresaw the pandemic where every business does curbside now," Priebe said.

"We have been allowing it and saying that we would come back and address it in the text at some point."

With the amendments to the ordinance, curbside sales would only be allowed in private, off-street parking lots and would have to be approved as part of the initial permit, she said.
“What that would look like is, someone would apply for that permit or a permit renewal, and they would have to tell us they want to do curbside,” Priebe explained.
“They would have to provide information about where that would take place, and they would have to provide surveillance of the area.

“If the business doesn’t have its own off-street parking — mostly the downtown ones that use the municipal parking lots or street parking — they would no longer be allowed to have curbside pick up according to the change,” she said.

Big Rapids attorney Eric Williams told the board that the adjustment in the language of the ordinance is simple and direct, and it addresses the issue of curbside service in the downtown area.

“They are prohibited in the public streets and sidewalks, which is an issue in the downtown area of Big Rapids, and this addresses that." Williams said.

"It is only going to be allowed with a designation that is added to the permit and it has to be approved. Businesses can’t just do it, they have to ask the city for the extra designation.

"There was a location in the downtown area that had a lot of interaction along the curbside that led to some issues with parking and downtown visitors being told they could not park in certain spots," he said.
“We got past that immediate issue, but in getting past it, the city staff recognized that at some point curbside sales would need to be addresses more specifically, and that is what these amendments are intended to do. It is a bit more restrictive on marijuana businesses in the downtown district, but I think we are on solid ground for that regulatory position. It covers the gambit much more thoroughly than what we had, and I think it follows up nicely on the effects of the pandemic and the state basically saying any business has to be allowed to do it."
Some commissioners expressed concern about pushback from the downtown businesses should they adopt the amendments and asked if there had been any outreach to the businesses to get their feedback on the proposed change.

Priebe said they wanted to present it to the board first to see if it was something they would be in favor of before going through the planning commission.

“If it is something you are not in favor of, we wouldn’t make the change at the planning commission level,” she said.

“If it is something you are considering, then we would go to the planning commission. If it goes to the planning commission for discussion and public hearing, then they (the businesses) would all be invited to participate in that discussion.”

A public hearing on any proposed changes will be held prior to the recommendation of the planning commission. The date for a public hearing has not yet been set.

Change to Business Regulations Ordinance

In other business, the board adopted a change to the city’s code of ordinances regarding peddlers and transient merchants.

The language in the ordinance is being changed to clarify that all licenses will expire Dec. 31 at midnight regardless of when the license is issued.

“The point is to make it clear to everyone that gets a license when the license will expire,” Williams said.

“This is an effort at clarity so that businesses will know exactly when their license expires.”

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