The Lowell Planning Commission met for nearly an hour on Monday night to discuss two main pieces of business: a rezoning request to facilitate the construction of a Scooter’s Coffee location on the west end of town and a site plan review for an auto sale to be held at the fairgrounds in June. All commissioners were present except Marty Chambers.
Before discussing these requests, the commission reviewed a report from a short-term rental that operates on Gee Drive. This property is available for rent on Airbnb, and as a condition of its special land use permit, the owner is required to provide an annual update to the commission. No issues were noted with the property, and commissioners unanimously accepted the report.
Rezoning Request from Scooter’s Coffee
Under new business, the first agenda item was a rezoning request from Scooter’s Coffee. The business would like to establish a drive-thru coffee shop at 2531 W. Main Street, which sits between Mercantile Bank and D&D Truck Repair.
This property has been vacant for many years and is currently zoned for industrial uses. Drive thru food service establishments are not allowed in the industrial zone, and the property must be rezoned to C-3 (general business district) before Scooter’s Coffee can proceed with its plans.
Krisandra Lippert, a representative for Scooter’s Coffee, joined the meeting remotely via the Zoom videoconferencing platform. The Scooter’s website indicates there is currently one café open in Brighton, and Lippert says plans are underway for another 10 locations in Michigan, including two in Grand Rapids.
“They spent years perfecting their speed of service. That’s their niche,” Lippert said. “Their mission is just to be amazing every day.”
Andy Moore, a planning consultant to the city from the firm Williams&Works, walked through the criteria for a rezoning request and said his opinion was the property was compatible with the C-3 zoning district. He noted that, at this point, the commission was only considering whether to rezone the property. Issues specific to Scooter’s Coffee, such as easements and traffic flow would be discussed if and when the business submitted a site plan for review.
During the public hearing, Dean Lonick of D&D Trucking ask if Scooter’s Coffee could still get a permit for their business if the property remained industrial. Moore replied that they could not. Lonick than noted his opposition, saying that it would be difficult to rezone the property back to industrial if needed.
“If it’s been sitting there undeveloped for a decade, why wouldn’t be we rezone it?” Commissioner Colin Plank said in response to Lonick’s comments.
Commissioner Mike Gadula asked if rezoning the property would allow an adult use marijuana establishment. “Are we opening a can of worms?” he asked. Moore replied that adult use establishments are allowed in the industrial zone so a marijuana business could use the property regardless of whether it was rezoned.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend Lowell City Council rezone the parcel from Industrial to C-3. Should the council approve the rezoning request, Scooter’ Coffee will need to return to the Planning Commission with a site plan before they can move forward with construction.
Auto Sale Approved for Fairgrounds
The other piece of new business on the agenda was a request from West Michigan Auto Xchange to use the fairgrounds for a used vehicle sales event from June 21-30, 2022. Renee Pieper, the company’s off-site event director, joined the meeting via the Zoom videoconferencing platform.
Sale hours will run from 9am to 8pm each day, and the company expects to have 70-100 vehicles on site for sale. A tent will be erected and a mobile office for staff will be brought on site. Portable toilets will also be provided for guests and staff. Pieper said the company’s events usually see 30-100 customers visit during the course of each day.
Moore noted that the city’s ordinance is a bit awkward when it comes to approving temporary uses such as this. In reviewing the application, the Planning Commission considered both site plan and special land use standards.
“What’s being proposed here doesn’t make sense for a long-term facility,” Moore said. “Thinking very short term, we don’t have any concerns.”
Chair Bruce Barker asked whether a bond of some sort should be required in case there is damage to the fairgrounds and that was added as a condition of approval.
Barker also asked if the city charged anything for use of the fairgrounds. City Clerk Sue Ullery said the city didn’t collect any fees beyond those required for the permit review. Pieper interjected that the company was being asked to pay $3,000 to use the fairgrounds. According to paperwork submitted with the application, that fee will apparently go to the Kent County Youth Fair.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the site plan and special land use permit for the sale. Their approval is subject to approximately a dozen conditions that include bonding, an understanding that the sale is only approved for the current year and that no more than 100 vehicles shall be stored on site.
The Lowell Planning Commission adjourned at 7:56pm, and their next regular meeting will be on June 13, 2022 at 7pm.