City Council Candidate Questions Week 4: Economic Development

Each week we will be bringing you a candidate profile.  When we met with the five individuals seeking a seat on City Council this November we also gave them a list of questions.  Our questions were broken down into various topics of interest for the City of Lowell.  Each week we will be publishing our question(s) and their responses in their entirety giving our readers the opportunity to be introduced to one candidate but also see all candidate views on different subjects.   We thank all of the candidates for taking time to answer our questions and look forward to sharing their responses.

Answers to our question(s) will be show in alphabetical order by last name.  This week’s questions are about economic development.  We asked each candidate the following questions:

  1. What role should the Lowell government have in fostering business development within the city?
  2. Do you support allowing vacation rentals (such as those offered via websites like Airbnb) within the city limits?
  3. Do you support passing an ordinance allowing for the sale of medical marijuana within city limits?  If so which type of facility do you support?

Response from Greg Canfield.

  1.  I feel that economic development is a key role for local government even though it doesn’t always end well, such as the biodigester.  Look at what the Flat River Grill has done for downtown Lowell. Before they were here you could shoot a cannon down Main Street, very desolate and deserted with shops opening and then closing. They made Lowell a destination for a great meal and soon you couldn’t find a parking spot within a block or two. Now the Downtown is even busier with more great restaurants, new and old, that make us a hot spot for dining. Other retailers benefit from the additional traffic too. Our City Administration needs to find ways to say yes instead of No when individuals want to invest in our community because a strong, vibrant business district is a great benefit to local residents not only in services available but in contributing to revenue to operate City Services and maintain our infrastructure.
  2. I support businesses such as Airbnb in the right location. I recognize the problems it can cause for neighbors and am concerned about that.
  3. Initially I was not in support of allowing Medical Marijuana but after testimony of individuals that received significant benefits that greatly improved the quality of life for them I feel that we need look in to this. We will be holding a public hearing and seeking more input from the community but I feel that a dispensary would be most needed.

Response from Jake Davenport.

  1. There are a few things I think we could do. Primarily, the city government needs to be proactive in helping businesses. Anything and everything the city government could do to help business should be path forwards. We should do things like reducing city regulation, streamlining governmental approve processes, even reducing property taxes to help businesses. What I also think the city could do is be better listeners. They need to sit down and listen to the concerns of businesses. There is something wrong with how government is functioning when businesses only last 6 months and close. We have seen this in Lowell many times over the last few years. One of the biggest complaints I have heard from businesses is the cost of rent in downtown Lowell. The city should try to do something to make store fronts downtown more affordable.

    2. Yes. People should be able to do what they want with their property. I think there should be some sort permit process to hold people accountable, but other than that, people should be able to rent out their home if they so choose.

    3. No. Medical marijuana dispensaries have cause a lot of issues in the communities of which they operate. Even though marijuana has been legalized at the state level for consumption as medical treatment, it is still illegal under federal law. If one were to open a dispensary in Lowell it would be one of the few in Michigan outside of the Lansing area. I think that would cause huge disruptions. I think that would also discourage people with young children from wanting to live in Lowell. For the sake of the entire community I think a dispensary would hurt our community more than it would help, so I would not support it

Response from Mike DeVore.

  1. The City should always be available to local businesses. And local businesses should be confident that we support them. We have been lacking in that for some years, but I think we’re moving in the right direction. Having important local business owners like Greg and Marty on the Council is invaluable, as they can provide an excellent viewpoint on where relations stand and where they can go from here. The ultimate goal is to keep every store front full and vibrant, and I think we’re making progress towards that every day. 
  2. Vacation rentals… I think that there are positives and negatives. I think it benefits the community to have people from outside the area come here and see what we have to offer. They’ll share that experience and others will have reasons to come and try us out. And they’ll get hooked on this community like we all did. But at the other end, we have to carefully monitor the accountability of the owners and the renters. There has to be a comparable pride in the community from both ends for it to work.
  3. The entire Council is trying to get as educated as we can on the subject. I’ve gathered as much info as I could find on the subject, including reaching out to the City of Ann Arbor, who do allow facilities. That being said, my answer is that I’m still sitting firmly on the fence. I truly believe in the medical benefits of the multiple Marijuana and it’s byproducts. At the same time, using this City as a “test city” is something I’m concerned about. Are the Buzz Solutions people the ones we want setting the standard for our ordinance? I don’t know. Do we want to open that flood gate before other Kent County municipalities do? I don’t know. Is there going to be an additional workload put on our already over-worked Police Department? I don’t know. The money that a dispensary would bring in is minimal, so there has to be other clear cut benefits to get my yes vote. I’m not sure we’re there just yet.

Response from Mark Ritzema.

  1. We should be assisting anyone who wishes to do business in our city.  We should look to advertising about what we can offer to a business such as friendly people, support for the business, and a good downtown area. 
  2. I support allowing vacation rentals as long as there are some ordinances that protect the other properties in the area and that the rental doesn’t become an eyesore or a disorderly problem.
  3. Did not answer.

Response from Jim Salzwedel.

  1.     As to what role the Lowell government should have in fostering businesses, they can look at this like a partnership, creating dialogue between the business community and the local government, to open up communication and the flow of information between the two and promote business opportunities and activities between the two.  Each can bring their strengths to the table to achieve common goals; businesses their expertise in access to finances, management efficiency and entrepreneurial spirit and government its expertise in policy statements, rules, regulations, ordinances, and special incentives such as tax-free/tax incentives, property leases. 
  2.    Where supporting vacation rentals is concerned in the City of Lowell, I feel it is best to leave that responsibility to actual licensed businesses who are devoted to the travel and vacation industry and to providing such accommodations, as in the case of a local hotel or B&B.  That will assure that local laws and ordinances are upheld and will eliminate the rights of the neighboring property owner from being infringed upon. 
  3.     I would support passing an ordinance allowing for the sale of medical marijuana within city limits under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act and specifically a provisioning center where licensees purchase marijuana from a grower or processor and sell, supply or provide marijuana to patients, directly or to the patient’s caregiver.

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