Updated May 12 @2:45pm — The City of Lowell posted the following message on their Facebook page: Last evening there was an error pertaining to the Planning Commission Meeting. The public was given incorrect information to participate in the meeting. As a result, the four items the Planning Commission approved are technically voided per the Open Meetings Act. The public will have the ability to participate in Public Hearings for the Special Land Use applications for 2264 W. Main and 1425 W. Main which will reconvene on Monday June 8th at 7:00 PM. The Planning Commission will also need to take action again on each item they addressed last evening. The City of Lowell apologizes for the error.
During a roughly two hour and 45 minute-meeting held on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, the Lowell Planning Commission reviewed and approved two new adult use marijuana facilities. All members of the commission were present and voting except Tony Ellis who had an excused absence.
In addition, the commission heard an update on a local Airbnb, the new location of the YMCA and the status of the RiverView Flats condominium project.
New Recreational Marijuana Facilities in Lowell
The two new marijuana facilities will be retail establishments located on W. Main Street. Rair Properties has acquired the parcel that was most recently occupied by Personal Choice Cabinetry. This property is next to Ferrell Gas and across from the First Baptist Church. Rair plans to replace the existing building.
The other applicant, Visio Clara, operates Lume Cannabis Co. and has seven other locations in the state. They expect to move into the property at the corner of Main Street and Valley Vista, which is currently leased by Lowell Family Chiropractic. The company doesn’t expect make any external changes to the building or property footprint.
While both applications were subject to public hearings, there were limited comments from the public. The link to the Zoom meeting was incorrect on the city website, and each public hearing was largely a discussion between commissioners, the commission consultant and the applicants. There was no specific request to hear public comments from others in attendance.
However, First Baptist Church did send a letter prior to the meeting and that was read into the record. The leadership team of the church did not dispute whether marijuana facilities should be allowed in the city, but questioned whether the location of the Rair facility was appropriate. The church noted it held a number of children’s programs, and the pastor noted he worked with people battling addiction. A store in such close proximity to the church could make recovery more difficult.
A woman in attendance also asked what Rair’s long-term plans were for the store. She inquired into why the business had chosen Lowell and whether it would leave if and when recreational marijuana facilities were approved in a higher traffic area such as Grand Rapids. Kevin McFadden from Rair said the company was making a $3 million investment in the property and that would keep the business in Lowell.
During commission discussion, parking was raised as a possible issue in both locations. The parking lot at Meds Café, the first adult use marijuana facility to open in Lowell, is regularly full and that retailer has an agreement with Tractor Supply Co to use their lot as overflow parking. Commissioners directed Rair and Lume to make similar arrangements with neighboring businesses to accommodate additional cars as needed.
Both applications were approved unanimously by the Planning Commission with the stipulation that certain conditions be met. These included requirements related to parking, privacy screening, drainage and cross access with adjoining lots.
Airbnb, YMCA and RiverView Flats
Other items on the agenda included a review of an Airbnb located on Gee Drive. The owner noted he had been providing the fire and police departments with weekly updates regarding upcoming rentals, and there have been no incidents on the property. He asked if the commission would increase the number of vehicles allowed on the property to eight, adding that his garage and driveway could accommodate that many without being visible from the street or neighbor’s lot. The Planning Commission declined that request.
The Planning Commission was also advised that an administrative site plan review had been conducted to approve the YMCA’s move into the former Impact Church building on N. Hudson St. The footprint and exterior of the building would not be changed. “This is basically just an FYI for you,” said Andy Moore, a consultant to the commission who works for engineering firm Williams & Works.
Finally, developer Todd Schaal provided an update on the RiverView Flats project. A Planned Unit Development was approved last year for the condominium development. The owners would like to amend that plan to add a third story to the former Unity High School building and eliminate a drive, among other things. A full plan will be presented to the Planning Commission in June.
The next regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting will be held on June 8 at 7pm.