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Thursday, November 4,2010

Concerning caregivers

A medical marijuana vote and a snow and ice removal public hearing scheduled for tonight’s Lansing City Council meeting

by Andy Balaskovitz
The Lansing City Council will vote tonight on adopting an ordinance that regulates in-home, medical marijuana caregiver services in the city. The ordinance focuses solely on home occupation businesses and does not regulate dispensaries, compassion clubs or equipment stores.

The draft ordinance prohibits advertising on the property and limits one primary caregiver to operate from each home. Any in-home caregiver services must be located at least 1,000 feet from public or private schools (elementary through college), playgrounds, churches, public and private youth centers, public swimming pools and substance abuse treatment centers.

A Sept. 13 public hearing on the ordinance brought mixed reviews from citizens. Opinions ranged from extending the regulations to all cannabis-related businesses in the city to having no regulation at all.

In other scheduled business, the public will have a chance to weigh in tonight on a proposed snow and ice removal ordinance that could change the way city residents are assessed for not clearing their public sidewalks. The hearing is scheduled during the City Council meeting at 7 on the 10th floor of City Hall.

The ordinance, now in its ninth version, gives property owners 24 hours after a snowfall to clear their sidewalks. If they don’t, the Public Service Department has the liberty to issue notices by mail and on the property (mail will be deemed received two days after it is placed in the mail) to clear the snow. If it is not removed within 24 hours of receiving the notice, the Public Service Department will clear it or contract an outside company to clear it, for which property owners would have to pay.

Upfront costs for the city to remove the snow would be about $116, which covers an administrative fee and 20 minutes of time. Property owners would be charged $45.29 for each 20 minutes after that. If that fee is not paid within 60 days, it will be placed on the owner’s property taxes with a 5 percent additional administrative fee tacked on.

The proposed snow and ice removal ordinance has an illustrious history. An idea of the Bernero administration dating back more than two years, the proposed ordinance generated mostly negative feedback at a public hearing in February 2009. City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar, who chaired the Public Services Committee at the time, let it sit in committee because she knew she didn’t have the necessary five votes from the Council to approve it.

Fast forward to Jan. 1, when First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt took over as Public Services Committee chairman and Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko were elected to the Council. Yorko and Houghton ensured Dunbar her votes, but Hewitt did not discuss the ordinance publicly until last month. Hewitt says that he was working on the ordinance with help from the City Attorney’s Office.

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