HART — The Hart City Council heard Sept. 24 the first reading of Ordinance 19-03 Marijuana Prohibitions Ordinance, an ordinance to amend the code of ordinances previously adopted by the Hart City Council last fall.

The new ordinance is just one of two ordinances recommended and drafted by the new city attorney, Mark Van Allsburg.

“There are no substantive changes to the ordinances other than streamlining the regulations so that they will be easier to understand and comply with, by those reading the language,” said City Manager Lynne Ladner. “The second ordinance will have a public hearing and discussion at the October planning commission meeting next week. That ordinance will bring the city’s medical marijuana caretaker provisions of the zoning ordinance into compliance with changes resulting from legal interpretations that came from lawsuits that involved other communities.”

The original zoning ordinance, in relation to marijuana establishments, was defeated by the council back in May. Since then council members have gathered more information on the legalization of marijuana and met in closed session with the city attorney to discuss.

“This ordinance would clean up the other ordinances the council has already passed in relation to marijuana establishments,” said Ladner.

Council member Patrice Martin started off the discussion by saying, “We don’t currently have the infrastructure or any solid data related to the state’s legalization of marijuana, so I wonder if adding a ‘sunset clause’ of 3-5 years might be wise to ensure that this is revisited once more information is available?”

Ladner advised, “I would recommend if the council decides to add a sunset clause that a date get put on a central calendar so it is not forgotten. I would also recommend a three-year window versus a five-year one. With a five-year window, it is easier to keep putting it off, whereas with a three-year window it’s more definitive.”

Mayor Ron LaPorte said, “No doubt we will probably have marijuana establishments at some time in the future. We currently don’t have zoning in place, but as city leaders we need to get prepared. I just read that Ludington voted to take a ‘wait and see’ approach to see what other communities will do.”

Council member Joe Frontiera weighed in, “I think there’s a ‘pie in the sky’ thinking that this is going to be a big money maker for people. I think there will be greater obstacles than benefits. I’m concerned about how this could affect kids. Right now I’m not seeing any benefits to the city. I’m not sure we need a sunset clause. Can’t an ordinance be changed anytime if we need to?”

LaPorte responded, “We’ve discussed this with police. I have some of those same concerns. I’d like to see our zoning process move a little quicker than we have in the past.”

“Coming from a different perspective, having a sunset clause would prevent the possibility of a ballot initiative down the road. If that were to happen the voters would decide, and the council would have no say. A sunset clause gives the community confidence you are aware and considering all sides,” said Ladner.

“I will be attending a mayor’s conference soon and could pick the brains of the Muskegon and Grand Rapids mayors to see how it’s going in their communities,” said LaPorte.

At the conclusion of their discussion. Frontiera moved while LaPorte supported adding a sunset clause to Ordinance 19-03. A second reading of the ordinance will take place during the next Hart City Council meeting scheduled for Oct. 8,, starting at 7:30 p.m.