Planning Commission Approves Lowell’s First Marijuana Facility Site Plan

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Michigan, but facilities wishing to grow, process or sell it need to jump through several hoops before opening for business. First, they need to find a community that allows the facilities, and then they need to receive both state and city approvals.

Last year, Lowell opted into allowing facilities for recreational marijuana, also known as adult use marijuana, and the city’s first applicant cleared a major hurdle last night. The Planning Commission approved a site plan and special use permit for Meds Café to open a provisioning center in the former Family Video building on W. Main Street.

The commission took more than an hour to go over the site plan, special use permit and marijuana facility standards before unanimously approving the plan. The facility will serve as a retail establishment and only sell marijuana products. There will be no growing, processing or consumption on-premises.

“This wasn’t building from scratch which made it a lot easier,” Planning Commission Chair Bruce Barker said at the conclusion of the meeting. Meds Café doesn’t plan any major external changes to the building or lot so there was no need to extensively discuss items such as parking, landscaping and traffic flow.

Air Filtration Only Point of Disagreement

The Planning Commission was largely in agreement regarding conditions to be placed on the project, with the one exception being whether to require an air filtration system.

At the start of the meeting, Andrea Hendrick, Meds Café’s representative, noted the city inspector determined the building’s HVAC system should be sufficient as is. Since the store will not be processing or growing products, odor issues are not anticipated to be a problem. However, Hendrick said Meds Café would be amenable to adding the filtration system if the commission would like.

Later in the meeting, Marty Chambers, who serves as the Lowell City Council representative on the Planning Commission, said he would like to see an air filtration system added or at least stipulate that a system be available should odors become an issue. Barker and Commissioner Dave Cadwallader disagreed, noting that the city doesn’t require such systems of other businesses.

In the end, the commission did make it a condition of their approval that the applicant install a filtration system should there be complaints of a marijuana odor. The condition came at the recommendation of Andy Moore from engineering firm Williams & Works, who serves as a consultant to the planning commission.

Overflow Parking Planned at Tractor Supply Co

Meds Cafe co-owner Michael Atkins (l) and business representative Andrea Hendrick were present for the meeting.

Parking was another topic of discussion at the meeting. Lowell’s zoning ordinance requires 21 parking spaces for a retail establishment the size of the former Family Video building. The lot currently exceeds that requirement with 31 spaces. However, everyone in attendance agreed there was the potential for large crowds after the facility first opened.

Hendrick noted Meds Café has a month-to-month agreement with Tractor Supply Co to direct any overflow traffic to their parking lot. A representative of Riverside Auto Wash was at the meeting and shared a concern that people might try to park in his lot and walk to the marijuana facility. Michael Atkins, one of Med Café’s co-owners, said they would have staff directing people to the appropriate lot.

Noting that there were condominiums behind the building, the commission also required trees or similar screening be planted in front of the fence to the rear of the property. “We’d just assume keep headlights off the residences,” Chambers said.

Meds Café still needs to receive city and state licenses before it can open its doors. That process is not expected to take long, but an opening date has not yet been announced. The Lowell store will be the second location for Meds Café which has operated in Rogers City for appropriately 10 months.

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