Planning Commission Recap: Marijuana Facilities Hearings, Take Two

Lowell Planning Commission met at City Hall last night for one of the first in-person meetings to be held in the city since Michigan’s stay-at-home order was lifted. Chairs in the audience were spaced out to ensure social distancing, and everyone in attendance was asked to wear a mask. All commissioners were present except Amanda Schrauben who had an excused absence.

The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes, and the published agenda included three public hearings for adult use marijuana facilities. A representative of a fourth marijuana business approached the commission during the citizen comments section of the meeting as well. The only other item discussed was an update on an expected revision to the RiverView Flats planned unit development.

Adult Use Marijuana Facilities Approved

Last month, the Lowell Planning Commission approved site plans for two recreational marijuana retail stores on W. Main Street. However, the May public notice included an incorrect link to the Zoom meeting location. As a result, all business conducted during the May meeting needed new votes last night. That meant new public hearings also had to be held on the two adult use marijuana sites.

However, before those hearings were held, Andrea Hendrick approached the commission during citizen comments to ask if the commission could discuss the possibility of changing setback requirements at 2335 W. Main Street. Hendrick represents a company that would like to establish a marijuana grow facility there, but a non-conforming building on the site is encroaching on the setbacks. Planning Commission Chair Bruce Barker declined, saying the commission would need plans in front of it to have that discussion.

Next was the public hearing for a retail adult use marijuana facility proposed by the company Lume for the corner of W. Main Street and Valley Vista Drive, in the building most recently occupied by Lowell Family Chiropractic. There were no public comments, and site plan was approved unanimously.

The second public hearing was for a retail recreational marijuana facility proposed by the business Rair. The facility would be located on W. Main Street across from the First Baptist Church. Two members of the church spoke with concerns about having the business so close to their building.

Pastor Jon Pickens noted there is a 1,000 foot buffer required by the ordinance between schools and adult use marijuana facilities. He said the First Baptist Church hosts a number of children’s programs throughout the week. He was also concerned about people struggling with addiction who might leave church and having the temptation of a marijuana facility across the street.

However, Pickens added that he understood the facilities were legal and that it was his fault for not realizing an adult use marijuana ordinance was being drafted and missing those conversations. “We’re not going to be combative in any sense, but we wanted to share these concerns,” he said. Mentioning that the grow facility Hendrick referenced earlier in the meeting would also be located next to the First Baptist Church, Pickens said, “We feel surrounded.”

When Lowell’s adult use marijuana ordinances were developed, Lowell City Council opted not to limit the number of marijuana facilities in the city and also declined to create buffers between marijuana businesses. Barker noted the Planning Commission had increased the buffer between schools and facilities from 500 feet to 1000 feet though.

The application from Rair was passed unanimously by the Planning Commission.

A final public hearing was on the agenda for another marijuana business, Joyology. However, that hearing was tabled to a future meeting because of a documentation issue.

Changes to RiverView Flats PUD

The only other item on the agenda was an amendment to the RiverView Flats project which is converting the former Unity High School property into condominiums. The expected changes to the plan include the following, among other things:

  • Demolishing two portions of the former Unity High School building to create condo yards
  • Changing the configuration of drives and moving an access point from Monroe Street to High Street
  • Adding 14 parking spaces on-site
  • Modifying sidewalk arrangements

“We feel this design is a nicer one,” said Todd Schaal, a developer with Unity School Investors.

Last night’s agenda item was for informational purposes only, and a formal plan will come before the Planning Commission in July.

The next meeting of the Lowell Planning Commission will take place on July 13 at 7pm on the second floor of City Hall.

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