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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely City Council extends cannabinoid moratorium one year

Catie Clark
Posted 2/22/23

ELY- In a pleasant excursion from the usual rounds of routine business, the Mayor of Ely, Heidi Omerza awarded Ely senior and Nordic skiing champion Zoe Devine, the key to the city. The award was in …

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Ely City Council extends cannabinoid moratorium one year


ELY- In a pleasant excursion from the usual rounds of routine business, the Mayor of Ely, Heidi Omerza awarded Ely senior and Nordic skiing champion Zoe Devine, the key to the city. The award was in recognition of Devine’s individual girls title at last week’s state Nordic ski championship in Biwabik. Her individual win, combined with the eighth-place team finish for the Ely girls team, continued Ely’s reputation as a Nordic skiing powerhouse. Preceding the award of the key, Omerza read a resume of all of Devine’s athletic achievements at both the junior and senior high school levels of sport.

More edible cannabinoids
In other business, the council voted to extend its moratorium on granting any new licenses to businesses wishing to sell cannabinoid edibles, kicking the can down the road on a city ordinance yet again. Kelly Klun, Ely’s city attorney, pointed out that extending the moratorium did not lock the city into waiting a whole year until it expired, remarking to the council that, “You can revoke it at any time.”
In the discussion of the moratorium, council member Forsman stated that he would vote in favor of it, but only because the original moratorium was about to expire. Forsman missed the previous meeting on Feb. 7, where the council voted not to approve either of the two proposed cannabinoid ordinances for a first reading.
“I would like to see a non-exclusive ordinance move forward,” said Forsman. “I don’t think waiting for (the Legislature) is the right thing to do.” The Legislature is widely expected to further loosen cannabis laws in the state this session, and could also limit the ability of local jurisdictions to restrict sale of cannabis products.
Forsman’s mention of a non-exclusive ordinance referred to the draft city law proposed at the Feb. 7 meeting which would allow the sale of legal edibles at retail establishments, while also permitting the sale of other non-cannabinoid products at the same location. The other ordinance proposed on Feb. 7 would have restricted the sale to stores that sold cannabinoid products exclusively, like other single-product retail establishments, like liquor stores and adult content stores. Neither proposed ordinance would have permitted the sale of cannabinoid edibles for consumption at the retail location where they were sold. Both proposed ordinances were voted down for a first reading on Feb. 7.
The next agenda item was the creation of an ad hoc committee to discuss the city’s options for licensing the sale of cannabinoid edibles within city limits and to develop an ordinance. Council member Angela Campbell remarked that she had been watching the Minnesota Senate committees’ hearings on cannabis legalization, stating there was “a lot of confusion” over all the issues raised regarding cannabinoids and cannabis. She was in favor of the ad hoc committee while Forsman felt the council should move on to consider the “non-exclusive” ordinance that was not approved at the Feb. 7 meeting.
The council voted to form the ad hoc committee, 5-1, with Paul Kess absent and Al Forsman voting in opposition.

Rental license
Rae Bentz, the owner of the rental property at 105 W. Conan St., was originally scheduled to appear at the council meeting this week but was unable to attend. The city council voted to revoke the rental license for the property at its Feb. 7 meeting. The property has four apartment spaces, of which three are rented.
In an unexpected turn of events, Klun reported that a detailed review of the property’s inspection history revealed that the owner did not have a current license. After the meeting, Doug Whitney, the city’s building official told the Timberjay that the rental license had lapsed a year ago. Klun also remarked that the owner was working with the city’s building inspector to fix the problems found in the December 2022 through January 2023 inspections, and that a new license would not be issued until all the problems were remedied.
In a related agenda item, Forsman reported that the budget committee recommended the increase of the short-term rental license fee from $100 to $400. Forsman remarked that quadrupling the fee was “really a lot.” He made a motion to send the matter back to the budget committee for more discussion, which the council approved.
In other business, the city council:
• Authorized council and staff to attend the League of Minnesota Cities annual conference on June 21-23 in Duluth. The council also approved attendance at the League of Minnesota Cities Safety and Loss Control workshops, which address how to reduce liability risks for municipalities.
• Approved increases for civil enforcement fees, labor charges and equipment with operator fees. The increases are designed to reflect the costs to the city for enforcement and services.
• Approved the purchase of an upgrade from Caselle Clarity to Caselle Connect with the optional module of miBudget for a total of up to $17,850. These products will replace the city’s current accounting software which is no longer supported.
• Approved the purchase of a Dell brand computer from Voltz for $1,599.97 for the police department.
• Authorized a professional services contract with TKDA for $81,700 for the Ely Trailhead Building. The building project is already funded through state bonding and federal dollars.
• Approved Cody Perkins maple tree tapping request, contingent on his meeting all the requirements in the city’s written tree-tapping policy.
• Granted an exemption to the sewer inspection requirement for the transfer of ownership of the property at 312 E. Chapman St., contingent on verification “that there are no obvious problems.” The buyers have lived at the property since 2015. “This is really a gray area,” in the enforcement of the sewer inspection ordinance, said clerk-treasurer Harold Langowski, “requiring council approval.” The agenda item triggered an extended discussion on what were and were not legitimate reasons for exemptions to sewer inspection.
• Approved airport taxi lane reconstruction design and construction phase services from TKDA for 2023. Langowski stated that the services were to aid the city in meeting the grant deadlines for funding to fix “the last piece of really bad blacktop at the airport.”
• Approved city and Ely Utilities Commission claims for $135,585.68.
• Approved the invoice to AE2S for the wastewater treatment facility improvements project for $19,896.19.
• Approved an invoice from SEH for work on the Prospector ATV Trails for $654.50.
• Approved Pay Estimate #5 (Final) for the Prospector ATV Phase 6 Beaver River CrossingProject to Northland Constructors for $223,062.88 and the issuance of the Certificate of Substantial Completion.
• Approved the Ely Community Resource first quarter payment of $5,125.
• Approved a residential rehabilitation loan for John and Susan Leonard for up to $10,000, for the property at 127 W Chapman St. to fix the sewer line, pending proper paperwork and fees.