Planning Commission Recap: Condo Changes and New Marijuana Businesses

The Lowell Planning Commission met for more than two hours on Monday night to discuss plans for four businesses. These included an extension of a self-storage facility, changes to a riverfront condominium project and approval of two new marijuana businesses. Five commissioners were present with Commissioners Colin Plank and Marty Chambers absent.

Ada Lowell Self Storage Expansion OK’d

Back in August 2018, Mike Winick received approval from the Planning Commission to extend a storage building at Ada Lowell Self Storage on Bowes Road. However, the city ordinance requires construction to begin within a year of site plan approval. Since that didn’t happen, the plan needed to come back to the Planning Commission for re-approval before work can begin.

Winick says he’s ready to start the project now. There were no changes to his initial plan, which calls for an extension of a fourth building on the site, and the Planning Commission voted unanimously to re-approve the plan.

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RiverView Flats PUD Amendment

Next was an amendment to the RiverView Flats PUD, which is a condominium project at the site of the former Unity High School along the Flat River. The PUD, short for planned unit development, was originally approved last fall.

Since then, the owners of the condominium site swapped a portion of their property for a section of Riverside Park and were given half of High Street running from Monroe Street to the Riverwalk. Given the new boundaries of the property, developers Todd Schaal and Jerry Zandstra wanted to reconfigure their three-phase development.

The new plan removes approximately 2,645 square feet from the former Unity High School to create condo yards, adds 23 parking spaces and eliminates a curb cut on Monroe Street.

“We’re no longer having a driveway that shines lights into [someone’s] house,” Schaal said.

There was no discussion from the commission regarding the changes, which were unanimously approved. The PUD amendment now goes to Lowell City Council for final approval.

Two Marijuana Businesses Approved

For its final business of the night, the Planning Commission unanimously approved two new marijuana businesses.

The first, Joyology, will be a retail establishment located on a lot that has been used by the Todd Landman car dealership. Owner Brian Toma has previously owned wireless stores but has shifted his business focus to marijuana establishments. He opened stores in Grand Rapids and Reading about a month ago and hopes to operate a half dozen Joyology stores by the end of the year.

“If everything goes as I want it to, I could be open before the holidays,” Toma said of the Lowell location.

Parking, landscaping and details about dumpster placement and the building’s air filtration system were discussed before the Planning Commission gave its approval. However, there did not appear to be any major concerns from commissioners about the business plan.

The second business, Five Lakes Farm, proposed a marijuana grow and processing facility at 2335 W. Main Street. This location houses several warehouse buildings and is located between the Todd Landman car dealership and the First Baptist Church.

Andrea Hendrick, who represented Five Lakes Farms during the meeting, said the business had been in touch with the First Baptist Church and was planning to erect a six foot privacy fence along the eastern border of the property as requested by the church.

During discussion on the site plan, the only area of disagreement between commissioners was regarding whether the fence should extend along the northern border of the property as well. The church owns the vacant land to the north, and Hendrick said church representatives had not requested a fence along that lot line. However, Chair Bruce Barker thought it would be good to have a fence placed there as well. Commissioner Tony Ellis disagreed.

“I don’t see that it’s needed,” Ellis said. Other commissioners did not offer nor were asked their opinion, and Barker directed the commission consultant Andy Moore to add the fence to the list of conditions for the plan’s approval.

With the approval of these site plans, Lowell is slated to have five marijuana businesses located within a half mile of each other on W. Main Street. During commissioner comments at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Amanda Schrauben asked whether the council had considered limiting the number of marijuana businesses in the city.

City Manager Mike Burns said it had been discussed, but there were concerns that putting restrictions on marijuana businesses could lead to legal challenges. “It’s really a small area that they are allowed to be in,” he said. “We didn’t want to put any additional buffers on it because we knew we were going to get into litigation and we wanted to avoid that.”

While he isn’t sure how much revenue the marijuana businesses will generate for the city, Burns said the more businesses Lowell has, the more revenue it will receive. “We can get a cut on the excise tax once the requirements of the state are met,” he said, adding that it was his understanding that Meds Café was making $50,000-$60,000 a day in sales.

The next meeting of the Lowell Planning Commission will be held on Monday August 10 at 7pm.

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