DDA to have input on Alpena pot decision

ALPENA — The Alpena Downtown Development Authority is pondering the best route to take in terms of allowing recreational marijuana sales downtown.

The City of Alpena asked for the DDA’s opinion on the issue.

The topic is being considered by the DDA’s economic development committee, which will then make a recommendation to the full DDA board for a vote. The DDA recommendation will be forwarded to the Alpena Municipal Council, which will have the final say on whether to allow commerical marijuana sales in the city.

Recreational marijuana was legalized by voters in November. The new law allows local governments to prohibit commercial sales, but governments who do so lose out on tax revenue.

Many municipalities in the state have prohibited the sale of the drug, which is still considered a Schedule I narcotic by the federal government. In the coming weeks, the City of Alpena will decide what direction to take. The council could allow the sale of marijuana, forbid it altogether, or restrict it downtown and allow it in other areas of the city.

City Manager Greg Sundin, who represents the city on the DDA board, said that, once the DDA makes a recommendation, the city council will pair it with a recommendation from staff and council will decide on the matter.

“Council will give us a direction and then staff will begin to draft the ordinances, changes in zoning ordinances, as well as our code of ordinances that would allow it to work the way we want it to work within the limitations of the law,” Sundin said.

Sundin said the Traverse City council recently prohibited the sale of recreational marijuana because of the uncertainties in the law and how the state will regulate the drug. He added that he wouldn’t be shocked if Traverse City opts back in later, once things are sorted out in Lansing.

“I think eventually they’ll opt in, but, right now, things are so fuzzy in the law and what the rules are going to be,” he said. “Many communities right now are opting out, even if they are interested, because they want to wait and see what happens.”

Alpena DDA Executive Director Anne Gentry recently sent out a survey to businesses downtown to gauge how they feel about allowing marijuana businesses downtown. Once those surveys are returned, it will help the DDA Economic Development Committee get a clearer picture of what current businesses want to see before making the recommendation to the full DDA board.

Board member Jeff Mindock, who sits on the committee, said he expects a more concrete direction to be in place in the next month or so.

“There is a lot to still talk about and the committee really wants to see the results of the survey before making a recommendation to our board,” he said. “Then it will be up to the DDA board to validate the committee’s recommendation to it.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.