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'More like not-so-Grand Haven': City council moves forward with two controversial items

The decisions have been met with mixed reactions from the community.

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — The City of Grand Haven is moving forward on two major issues.

The first is their plan to explore the possibility of paid-parking, and the second is to allow the sale of recreational marijuana within the city.

On Monday night, Grand Haven City Council voted yes to direct city staff to prepare a formal plan to implement user paid parking along the waterfront in spring 2023.

They also were directed to bring back an optional plan to implement user paid parking in the downtown area. That plan has not been well-received by everyone.

"Paid parking is not the answer," said Doug Vanse, who owns the Copper Post along Washington Avenue, to the council. "If you're going to do that, then let's change the name of Grand Haven to not-so-Grand Haven."

Erica Layton, executive director of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum also spoke at Monday's meeting.

"Implementation of a paid parking system would be felt by our visitors, our volunteers, our museum employees and probably most importantly, our field trip students and their educators," she told council members.

But others see the benefits that it would bring, especially to the city's budget.

"I would almost say I'm for it," said Bob Warren, a long-time resident of Grand Haven, "because I realize communities around us, like Muskegon, have paid parking on their beaches and it gives them a good income." 

"We would still have free parking lot options," said Grand Haven Mayor Pro Tem, Ryan Cummins, "so, if folks are able to walk a little bit further, they would would be able to do that."

Cummins said that he recognizes that there's been a lot of push-back on the option of paid-parking, but also said that he thinks there needs to be more education on why they continue to move forward with the plan. For instance, showing people the real benefits and cost-saving measures it could bring.

"And that formal plan that our staff is going to present to us, will I think, more clearly help folks see exactly where that funding would go," Cummins said. 

City Council also took two actions Monday night that could bring recreational marijuana facilities to Grand Haven, which changes the city's code of ordinances. It passed 3 to 2.

"The regulatory ordinance lays out a few different things that kind of covers what application requirements and processes would be," Cummins explained. "It establishes a lottery system for selection with issuance of permits, what the hours of operation should be, and what the penalties are for non-compliance."

The other, changing the city's zoning ordinance, passed 4-to-1. Those amendments would establish where recreational marijuana establishments also known as adult-use retail facilities would be allowed.

"It establishes a 2,500-foot buffer between medical or recreational marijuana facilities so they would be more spread out, and that maintains a 500-foot kind of sensitive land use buffer," Cummins explained, "so, marijuana establishments have to stay at least 500 feet away from things like parks, places of worship, substance-use treatment facilities, at least 1,000 feet away from libraries and schools."

More constituents were in support of this vote during Monday's meeting. 

"I think it would be important," Oliver Shampine told the council. "It would help the city a lot, and it would also help local businesses."

"These laws are long overdue," Grand Haven resident and legal cannabis developer Rebecca Neil added to council, "and we can benefit our community in more ways through that accessibility."

There has been plenty of push back from members of the community at several other council meetings. Mayor Catherine McNally, who has long been vocal about her opposition to recreational marijuana in Grand Haven, was the only council member to vote no to both items.

"It's important to note that it's not finalized yet, until that second vote actually occurs," Cummins explained. "And then there'll be a publication period where it has to be put in the paper, so it doesn't have immediate effect."

The voices heard on both sides of both issues is feedback that Cummins said city leaders take into account.

"We want to hear from our constituents and those that would be impacted by any of the decisions that we might make, so we were always examining that feedback," he said.

You can watch Monday night's full city council meeting by clicking here.


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