City of Lowell Planning Comm Recap: Auto Repair and Adult Use Marijuana

The City of Lowell Planning Commission held three public hearings and approved three special land use permits at its April meeting on Monday night. Commissioners Mike Gadula and Dave Cadwallader had excused absences, but all other members were present. The meeting was held in-person, but the public could also join remotely using the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

Citizen Comment and Closed Session

At the start of the meeting, the commission took citizen comments for items not on the agenda. During this time, John Sterly provided a brief update from the Community Center Committee.

The committee is currently looking for property for the center, and the group has identified Creekside Park as a prime location. While there is also land available in Vergennes Township, Sterly said Creekside Park is preferable since it already has utilities. What’s more, the group would like to keep the community center within the city. Sterly added the fields at Creekside Park could be relocated and the playground is older.

Commissioner Marty Chambers, who also sits on Lowell City Council, invited Sterly to share the committee’s plans at next week’s city council meeting as well.

Next, planning commissioners spent approximately 45 minutes in a closed session to “discuss legal opinion subject to attorney-client privilege.” No further information was provided on the reason for the closed session but at their last meeting, the Planning Commission had tabled an adult use marijuana facility application to give the city attorney an opportunity to review a letter received about a homeschool group that meets at the nearby Calvary Christian Reformed Church.

Vehicle Repair Facility on S. Washington

Once back in open session, the Planning Commission started the first of three public hearings. Up first was an application for a special land use permit to operate a vehicle repair service at 211 S. Washington.

A towing facility was approved at this location during the March Planning Commission meeting. The applicant noted that half the building at the property would be used for repair services while the other half would be used for the towing facility.

The commission reviewed the special land use permit standards and then unanimously voted in favor of granting the special land use permit to allow a repair facility at the site.

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Adult Use Marijuana Facility Approved

Next up was an application for an adult use marijuana facility on W. Main Street at the location that most recently housed the Good and Thomet automotive dealerships.

Zaid Arabo joined the meeting via Zoom and spoke on behalf of Joyology, the business proposing the facility. He explained the business was planning to make some updates to the existing building on the site and use the front half of the structure as a recreational marijuana dispensary. Once the dispensary is up and running, Joyology is considering the addition of a grow or processing facility in the back half of the building.

Outside the building, to the south, there is a ball field on the property. Apparently, this field is currently being used by a high school-level team. The commission discussed the appropriateness of having students using a field on the same lot as a marijuana facility, and options such as creating a buffer or splitting off the southern half of the lot were mentioned.

Later in the meeting, it was suggested that the application be tabled until the issue with the ballfield could be resolved. However, Joyology owner Brian Toma, who also joined the meeting via Zoom, said he would simply discontinue use of the ballfields rather than delay action on his application.

During the public hearing, city resident Michelle Rosloniec questioned whether marijuana products could be consumed on the premises. Andy Moore, a consultant to the planning commission from firm Williams & Works, replied that no business had been approved in Lowell to allow for the consumption of marijuana on-site. The term “adult use” is used to indicate that a facility is selling recreational, rather than medical, marijuana.

“As a parent and a resident, I just want to know that all these things we’re approving aren’t going to affect our safety or our kids’ safety,” Rosloniec said. “It just doesn’t sound to me that this has been well thought out about what their future plans are down the road.”

She also mentioned that while she knew marijuana facilities would bring in more tax revenue, she wondered what the benefit is for residents in the city. City Manager Mike Burns said the city is looking at funding a full-time police detective, and the $28,000 received in 2021 from marijuana taxes was earmarked for local roadwork.

After completing a review of the Joyology application, Chair Bruce Barker read a statement indicating that the commission acknowledged the letter sent by Calvary Christian Reformed Church but disagreed that the lease of the church by a homeschool group constituted its use as a school. The Planning Commission then unanimously approved the Joyology application.

Commercial Storage Warehouse on W. Main Street

The final agenda item of the evening was a review of an application from B&D Asset Recovery for a special land use permit that will allow for the placement of a commercial storage warehouse at 2040 W. Main Street. This property is a non-conforming lot that includes land behind Performance Plus Quick Oil Change and the Foz Plaza shopping center.

In February, Lowell City Council approved a variance request for the rear yard setback on this lot. On Monday, during its review of the site plan and special land use application, the Planning Commission discussed various issues including noise, landscaping, water drainage and parking before voting unanimously to approve the warehouse use.

The meeting adjourned at approximately 10:20pm, and the next regular meeting of the City of Lowell Planning Commission will be Monday, May 10, at 7pm.

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