The Lowell Planning Commission met for more than two hours on Monday night to discuss a mix of agenda items, including a gravel mining operation, business expansions and proposed marijuana facilities. Commissioners Dave Cadwallader and Amanda Schrauben were absent from the meeting, which was held at Lowell City Hall.
One Marijuana Application Approved, One Tabled
Among the agenda items were two proposed recreational marijuana microbusinesses. A microbusiness is allowed to grow up to 150 marijuana plants, process them and sell them at the same location.
The first application was from Premier Botanics which is planning a microbusiness in the building formerly occupied by Showboat Automotive. Owner John Allen told the commission, “We feel that we’ve got something positive to add to the community.”
During public comment on the application, area resident Roger Royer questioned the number of marijuana facilities that have already been approved. “What is the image that the planning commission is trying to establish for this community?” he asked.
He noted the billboard on M-21 outside of town states it’s time for Lowell to ‘light up’ and wondered whether the city would soon be known for its marijuana shops rather than the Showboat or established businesses like Litehouse and King Milling. “I don’t know that a city the size of Lowell…needs a half dozen of these on Main Street within a mile of each other,” Royer said.
Planning Commission Chair Bruce Barker responded that the commission is required to approve any application that meets the standards included in the ordinance passed by Lowell City Council. Barker suggested Royer address his concerns to the council, but Royer said he was not a resident of the city.
After discussing the Premier Botanics application, the planning commission voted unanimously to approve it. As part of their approval, the commission added a number of conditions such as the addition of a privacy fence and the requirement that no odors be detected outside the building. The Michigan Department of Transportation is also eliminating the curb cut on Main Street so all access to the building will be from Valley Vista.
A second marijuana business application was submitted by River City Cannabis for a microbusiness to be located in the Lowell City Mall near Snap Fitness. However, no representative from the business was present at the meeting so the application was tabled until December.
Commission Discussion on Marijuana Businesses
During commissioner remarks at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Colin Plank said he was inclined to agree with Royer’s concern about the number of marijuana businesses being established in the city. “It is kinda frustrating that when there are eight pot shops going into town…the only thing we can do is quibble about the size of their shrubbery,” he said.
Commissioner Tony Ellis asked if perhaps the commission could make a recommendation to the city council about placing a cap. City Manager Mike Burns didn’t think that would be a good idea since the state did not provide cities with any standards for how to evaluate applications if more than one business applied for a license.
“The first time someone doesn’t get [a license], they are suing the city, and we have no legal basis to defend ourselves,” Burns said. He believed a lawsuit would require a payment from the city and added that it was not something covered by insurance. “One of the things we learned is when you go into this, you’re either all in or all out.”
Burns also said he felt the city would receive a substantial amount of money from the marijuana businesses. “There’s going to be a lot more revenue to the city than I ever anticipated,” he said. That revenue will be a result of increasing property values for the business sites as well as the city’s portion of the state excise tax on adult use marijuana.
Barker thought the marijuana businesses were an improvement to the city. “Certainly, the new ones coming in, every one of them [is] going to be better looking than what was there and a better use of the facilities,” he said. While agreeing that 8-10 marijuana shops on the west side of town felt out of balance, Barker said he didn’t have regrets about the ordinances. “I don’t feel bad about it at all,” he said. “We spent a long time writing those ordinances. People had their chance…to make any recommendations.”
Other Planning Commission Action
There were three other agenda items discussed by the Planning Commission on Monday. These resulted in the following action:
- Continued discussion of a proposed gravel mining operation off Bowes Road. There was discussion about if and how the operation could impact the city water system, but the consensus seemed to be that there was minimal risk. Revised plans were submitted by the applicant, and the commission tabled the item until December for further discussion.
- Unanimously approved a site plan amendment for New Union Brewery to add outdoor seating.
- Unanimously approved a site plan from King Milling for a second level addition which would connect the McQueen and King Milling Buildings. Among the conditions of approval was that the addition have enough clearance to allow Department of Public Works trucks to drive under it in the event they need to do water main work in the alley south of Main Street.
The next regular meeting of the Lowell Planning Commission will take place on Monday, December 14th at 7pm.