The Lowell Planning Commission met for approximately one hour and 40 minutes on Monday night. There were three items on the agenda, all pertaining to marijuana businesses, and six audience members joined commissioners for the session. All members of the Planning Commission were present except Marty Chambers whose absence was excused.
Statement of Findings and Conclusions Approved
The first item on the agenda was a statement of findings and conclusions related to the denial of a special land use permit and site plan submitted by Hive Wellness LLC for use of the former RollAway Fun Center property as a marijuana business.
The 20-page document outlined the reasons given for denying the application at the commission’s last meeting. There was no discussion, and commissioners adopted the findings with a unanimous vote.
Reapplication for Grow Facility on W. Main Street
Under new business, the Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding an application for a marijuana grow and processing facility at 2335 W. Main Street. Five Lakes Farm received approval for this facility in July 2020 but since no construction activities took place at the property within a year, the approval expired.
On Monday, the Planning Commission reviewed a reapplication for the site which was largely the same as the original application. However, it was noted that the facility would now use a private septic system instead of city sewer services.
Andrea Hendrick, representative of Five Lakes Farm, noted that hooking into the city system would be an “atrocious cost” and requires going through an adjacent property. The only other change from the original application would be that rather than demolishing an entire building encroaching on the west property line, only the encroaching portion would be removed and the rest maintained.
City Attorney Tom Forshee from the firm Dickinson Wright said he understood the city ordinance as requiring businesses to hook into the city sewer system if it is available. However, there was some question as to whether the system was actually available to the Five Lakes Farm parcel. Hendrick noted the business would need to add a pump station and obtain an easement to connect to a line on an adjacent property.
Andy Moore, the city’s planning consultant from firm Williams & Works, noted that the current site plan still shows the city sewer line and easement. It was decided that it was best to table to the application until next month to give time to investigate the matter further and update the site plan document if needed.
Marijuana Retail Establishment Approved for W. Main Street
The second item of new business was a public hearing for a marijuana retail establishment at 2384 W. Main Street. The current occupant of the building is Galaxy Signs & Awards.
The applicant, Exclusive Brands LLC, doesn’t anticipate any significant changes with the property although the parking lot will be resurfaced and landscaping added.
There was some discussion about access to the property. It does not have a direct curb cut to Main Street, and it must be accessed through the Lake Michigan Credit Union property. There is also a curb cut in front of the Garage of Lowell to the west, but barriers have been placed along the property line to prevent traffic from traveling between the two parcels.
Neil Mills, who previously owned the properties occupied by AutoZone and Lake Michigan Credit Union and currently owns Galaxy Signs & Awards, said MDOT had required the curb cut by AutoZone to serve all three of those businesses. An easement is in place to allow access.
However, when the city allowed a nonconforming land split with the property on the west – now the Garage of Lowell – it did not require an easement, according to Mills. Exclusive Brands is apparently trying to work with the owners of the Garage of Lowell to allow access to the property from the curb cut to the west.
Planning Commissioner Tony Ellis asked if there was any way for the city to require access from the west or encourage the Garage of Lowell to remove the barriers.
“Government intervening in private business? I don’t think we would touch that,” said Mayor Mike DeVore, who does not sit on the commission but was in attendance at the meeting.
“Looking at the picture, it’s already paved,” Ellis responded. “It’s just someone putting up tires to prevent [access], and it’s our goal to connect all businesses. Can we suggest?”
“I don’t know if that’s going to be received very well,” Moore said.
In the end, the Planning Commission approved the marijuana business application unanimously with no requirement or condition attached to access from the west.
The next regular meeting of the Lowell Planning Commission will take place on Monday, November 8, at 7pm.