The Lowell Planning Commission had their first meeting for 2022 on Monday night. All commissioners were present, and Bruce Barker was unanimously returned to the position of chair for the upcoming year. Dave Cadwallader was unanimously approved for the position of vice chair.
The meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes, and the agenda included two public hearings. One was for a rezoning request for 211 N. Pleasant Ave. while the other was for an application for a marijuana grow facility at 2125 Bowes Rd.
Rezoning Recommended to Lowell City Council
The first public hearing came at the request of Betten Baker Auto Group to rezone 211 N. Pleasant Ave. The parcel is a triangular piece of property at the end of N. Pleasant. It is currently zoned R-3 for multi-family residential homes but is used by Betten Baker for storage and parking.
Charlie Jeffrey, director of operations for Betten Baker, said the company was unaware that the parcel was zoned residential. It was only caught by the bank during a review as part of a renovation currently taking place at the dealership. While the dealership has no plans to use the property for anything other than storage and parking, the bank apparently requires commercial zoning to complete financing.
“It’s an interesting location because directly to the south is a small manufactured housing district and then there is a C-3 property (south of that),” said Andy Moore, a consultant to the planning commission from engineering firm Williams & Works.
Some commissioners expressed reservations about rezoning the parcel C-3 because it would then surround the manufactured housing community with commercial property. However, others felt that there was no reason not to approve the request.
“Betten Baker are good neighbors,” said Commissioner Marty Chambers. “They aren’t going to do anything to upset the apple cart.”
No public comments were received on the matter, and the Planning Commission ultimately voted unanimously to recommend that Lowell City Council rezone the property as requested. While the commission can make a recommendation, only Lowell City Council can rezone land.
Marijuana Grow Facility Approved for Bowes Rd.
The second public hearing was an application from Trinity Cannabis for a marijuana grow facility at 2125 Bowes Road. This property most recently housed Hooper Printing, which has moved its facility to Kentwood.
Trinity Cannabis is applying for a Class C cultivation facility which can grow up to 2,000 marijuana plants. In addition to using the current building, the business is planning to build a 14-foot-tall greenhouse that will provide an additional 2,800 square feet of cultivation space. The greenhouse will be surrounded by fencing, and waste from the operation would be composted onsite.
The property currently uses a well and septic system, and planning commissioners noted that a city ordinance may require them to connect to the water and sewer lines running along Bowes Road. Commissioners also had concerns about landscaping, the height of fencing and the business’s plans to do without a dumpster.
Odor from the facility will be controlled using a fogger that utilizes organic ingredients to neutralize smells. Broc Crider from Trinity Cannabis said the method was 98% effective at eliminating odors.
There were no public comments for or against the operation, and the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the application contingent on 31 conditions being met. Most of these conditions were standard items attached to every marijuana application – such as provisions that all federal, state and local requirements be followed.
Marijuana Ordinance May Be Revisited
During commissioner comments, Commissioner Amanda Schrabuen noted the RollAway property on E. Main Street has a sale sign in front of it. She wondered whether the commission should revisit the issue of whether marijuana businesses are appropriate east of the Flat River.
Last year, the Planning Commission recommended an ordinance change to Lowell City Council that would prohibit marijuana establishments east of the river. However, council declined to vote on the recommendation when it learned someone was already in the process of submitting a marijuana application for the RollAway property. That application was later denied.
Moore said that if there was interest from the commission, it might make sense to look at some of the ordinances passed more recently in Michigan. When Lowell was drafting its original ordinance, it had to rely largely on examples of regulations from out-of-state. “It’s been a few years now and there’s a lot of communities that regulate and permit marijuana establishments,” he said.
“Yeah, and then we’re staying on top of what’s going on around us,” Chambers replied. “I think at least once a year we should look at it.”
No additional details or timeline were given as to if and when further action may be taken.
The meeting adjourned at 8:32pm, and the next regular meeting of the Lowell Planning Commission will take place on Monday, February 14, at 7pm.