THREE OAKS — The Village of Three Oaks Planning Commission approved special land use permits and site plan reviews for two potential retail marijuana business locations during its April 6 meeting.

Action on another application for those approvals, a step in the process of ultimately seeking to be chosen by the Village Council for the one retail license expected to be issued this summer, was tabled until a legal opinion clarifying the identity of that property’s owner could be obtained.

The process on April 6 included a public hearing, discussion among planners, and presentations by applicants.

First to speak was Peggy Cullen of Great Lakes Cannabis.

“We have the property which everyone’s calling the barber shop (at 6936 U.S. 12),” she said. “We would tear it down and build a little 1,500-square-foot property so that we can bring medicinal and adult-use cannabis.”

Cullen said the location would start medicinal.

“We want to bring a lot of things to the village. Jobs, people, tourists – we want this not to not just be for us but to be for the whole village.”

Later in response to a question Cullen said they would be willing to offer curbside service “if that’s how things are.”

“If things are normal I would hope that we can just have people come in.”

Planning Consultant Becky Harvey said a request for a special land use permit and a site plan review for Great Lakes Cannabis (and all other applicants) requires planners to confirm whether the site plan meets the standards in the zoning ordinance for the particular use being proposed in the C-1 district.

“At the conclusion of your site plan review you will turn to your special land use criteria ... you’re really looking as to how this particular development proposal will impact adjacent properties.”

She said these determinations have nothing to do with the marijuana licensure process, which applicants will be going through a bidding period that has been set for July 19-29 with one retail license slated to be awarded. Harvey later said planning approvals can and should be conditioned on the applicants being approved for a marijuana license.

Harvey said in regard to the Great Lakes Cannabis request, her staff report states that the site plan has in most respects been designed in compliance with the applicable standards.

Referring her summary of findings Harvey said the Great Lakes Cannabis Club site plan “is not lacking in any respect in terms of information nor is it proposing something that is inconsistent with your zoning ordinance as it relates to the site plan.”

Harvey said the applicant is required to establish a sidewalk, adding that it would be fine for the Planning Commission to condition its approval on the sidewalk complying with village standards.

She also said even if a site plan includes a signage proposal, it is not customary for the Planning Commission to review and approve those during the site plan review phase (they are handled through a sign permit process).

Bill McCollum, the architect that prepared the Great Lakes Cannabis site plan, said the entrance was relocated further to the west to reduce the impact on traffic.

Planning Commission member Colleen Newquist asked about the site plan calling for four parking spaces (the business is estimated to have 3 to 5 employees). McCollum said that is the maximum allowed at the present time under the ordinance. He added that they have planned for expanding more (up to eight) spaces in the future.

Planner Tom Flint said the zoning requirement of one parking spot for every 500 square feet is grossly inadequate, later calling it “an obvious flaw in our zoning.”

“I think it would be unfair to approve anybody when we know for a fact that they don’t have enough parking for their employees,” he said.

Harvey said if it’s the consensus of planners that the parking requirements need to be adjusted, they can begin dealing with that issue at a future meeting and site plans can be altered once the new rules are in place. Planning Commission Chairman Gene Svebakken said they would begin the process in May.

Later (once the meeting had gone back into regular session) planners unanimously agreed to have Harvey draft language to allow them to make variances to the ordinance when it comes to parking.

Harvey had advised the Planning Commission during the public hearing that if the current applicants for site plan/have met all of the village’s current standards then the Planning Commission should approve their applications.

The Great Lakes Cannabis site plan and special use permit applications were approved unanimously.

Second to be reviewed on April 6 was Bloom Operations, LLC, represented by Allison Irerton, Brian Schinderle and Josh Joseph (identified as a real estate partner).

Irerton said Bloom Operations is already licensed for both medical and adult use in Michigan.

Harvey said the site plan involves occupying an existing building and doing site improvements.

It was noted that the building at 6761 West U.S. 12 is not vacant, home to an insurance office and headquarters for Betty’s Buddies.

During the public comment portion of the hearing on the Bloom Operations request, attorney Darrin Malek said he represents Exclusive Healing, the “actual current occupant of the property.”

He said there is a dispute and a suit is planned, adding that Exclusive Healing has been involved in with the community for a long time and has “an active lease relating to this property.”

“An effort has been made to attempt to terminate it, but that lease has not actually been properly terminated at this point.”

Malek went on to say the lawsuit is going to involve the lease issue and “the purported purchaser, and unfortunately the purported applicant, or the actual applicant as well.”

He later claimed the applicant (Bloom Operations) does not have an active interest in the property and cannot properly apply for a special use permit at this time.

“My client Exclusive Healing certainly expects and expected to be the ones making the application for you all today, and certainly expects that it will once the matter gets resolved by the Berrien County Circuit Court,” Malek said.

Joseph, on behalf of Bloom Operations, said he has a formal purchase agreement in place to acquire the real estate and will subsequently lease to Bloom “upon our purchase of the real estate.”

Devin Loker of Exclusive Healing also spoke, saying “We do have a lease in place, we plan on fully executing it. We look forward to coming back in front of you with our own special use permit.”

Schinderle (also representing Bloom Operations) said “the actual owner of this property has signed our application,” adding that they were unaware that there was a dispute.

Harvey said it does appear that the owner of the property has signed the application from Bloom Operations.

After a period of people from both sides of the issue talking at the same time with Malek saying there may be another party that’s an owner, Svebakken said “if you need to resolve this in court you need to that, but we have to go on the basis of information which we have and that is that we do have a signed application by the property owner.”

Ireton said the special land use designation stays with the property and can’t be moved to another one regardless of who wins in court over who controls the property.

“So either way it appears that somebody who’s here is going to get this approval,” she said.

Ultimately planners voted 4-2 to table action on the application for one month so they can get a legal opinion on the ownership situation as it relates to the application.

Harvey later said she can help determine who the legal owner of the property is.

Voting yes were Flint, Newquist, Hank Binswanger and Ayla Batton while Svebakken and Heemstra voted “no.”

The third applicant, Green Koi, was represented by David Setzke, a former firefighter and paramedic from Chicago who lives in Three Oaks. Setzke said he started the company three years ago with his partner, Ethan Del Stone.

The proposed Three Oaks location is at 6934 U.S. 12 (a 4,000 square foot building which Setzke said will be redesigned by the architect who has worked on the other Green Koi sites.

“Our mission is to ensure that every customer receives the highest level of service from knowledgeable and caring consultants in an inviting location while offering premium curated cannabis products,” he said.

Setzke said the first flagship Green Koi operation is in Douglas, Mich., with a license in hand to open a second store in Cassopolis and plans to open two more next year.

“We also will be vertical, which is a term used for seed-to-sale where we will be growing our own marijuana which allows us better price points to our customers.”

He said the Douglas store employees about 24 people, mostly local and all from Allegan County.

“We embrace diversity, we strive to empower those that work for us with opportunities to grow with our expanding company.”

Harvey said her report on Green Koi has provided a revised site plan that addresses several issues including parking (going from 12 spots to 10) and a loading area.

Questions about how many employees would be onsite at a given time led to Tony McGhee from Abonmarche consultants saying they could easily add 4 to 6 parking spots to the site plan.

The site plan and special land use permit for Green Koi was approved unanimously by the Planning Commission.

During a public comment after the commission had closed the public hearing and gone into regular session, Angela Reichert asked why the village is only providing one license for a provisioning center. She noted that the ballot proposal passed by voters would allow for two such centers.

“I don’t understand why the ballot proposal language has not been adopted. It would increase the viability and vitality and opportunity for out community,” she said.

In response to a question, Village Manager Dan Faulkner said there currently were no other applicants seeking site plan and special use permit approval from the Planning Commission.

Also on April 6, Newquist talked about a Gateway Committee consisting of three members of the Planning Commission and three from the Downtown Development Authority that has met and found some existing Welcome to Three Oaks signs that may be repurposed.

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