THREE OAKS — Three Oaks Planning Commission on March 2 recommended the conditional rezoning of the front portion of a property at 23 West Ash St. from R-1 residential to C-1 commercial by a 5-2 vote, with Chairman Gene Svebbaken and planner Dustin Blaszczyk voting no.

A public hearing on the issue was re-opened prior to the vote. The rezoning request from owner Byron Nevills had been discussed at previous meetings, with an initial plan to rezone the entire parcel altered after neighbors had objected to the back portion which is located among homes becoming commercially zoned).

Village Manager Dan Faulkner read a written statement from adjacent property owner Chuck Zabel on March 2 that included the statement: “I would prefer the property stay residential.”

No one from the public spoke during the hearing.

The final decision on the rezoning request rests with the Village Council (which would include review by legal counsel).

The issue of how to proceed with Special Land Use permit requests from those seeking a license to open a marijuana business in the village also was discussed on March 2.

Svebakken said the process for when an application for a marijuana-related business comes in it is first reviewed by staff for accuracy and thoroughness, then it is referred on to the village engineer, and then to the planning consultant “who will then study in detail the request as it lines up with our existing zoning ordinances etcetera … the process we’ve talked about was then after that was all done we would … administratively schedule a public hearing … that should be automatic.”

Consultant Rebecca Harvey said she has forwarded a checklist to the village office outlining the basic steps in the process.

“And it should really be with any Special Land Use site plan review, not just the marijuana facilities,” she added.

“The process is pretty simple. The application and material and site plan are submitted to the village office, the village office checks it for completeness, they’re not checking to for compliance, they’re not conducting a review of the plan, they’re checking it to make sure that the application is completed entirely, it has all the signatures it needs, the fees paid, etcetera,” she said.

Harvey said if the application package is complete, then office staff has a couple of things to do: 1. Forward the application material to the reviewing bodies (in most cases the planner and the fire department); 2. Check for when the next Planning Commission meeting is with a four-week lead time to put it on the agenda to give the reviewing bodies enough time to complete their work before the meeting takes place; 3. Prepare the public hearing notice for the application and take care of the noticing for the hearing.

“From there on out the application material is under review. Once all of the reviews are done the report is prepared for the Planning Commission and the plans and the report are provided to the Planning Commission one week before the meeting … There’s no reason for the Planning Commission to be seeing this at all until it lays on your desk for the public hearing,” she said.

Faulkner said he is looking to set up a public hearing on a marijuana business-related application, noting that he already has sent information to the planner, the fire chief, the police department and the engineer.

“I’m going to ask them to have their comments to me by the 15th of this month,” he said.

Faulkner asked members of the Planning Commission in relation to public hearings on applications “how many do you want to see in a night? There’s going to be quite a few of these coming down the pike.”

Svebakken said Harvey has previously suggested that the maximum be three public hearings per meeting.

Harvey said that as of March 2 there were “three applications in various stages of completeness that are being processed and scheduled.”

If the limit is three per meeting and there are many applications, there was discussion about having special meetings to accommodate them in a timely manner. Harvey said the village manager can call the Planning Commission chairman and suggest that he call a special meeting if the applications exceed three per month.

Later in the meeting in response to a public comment question from Brian Schinkerle on what are the three applications currently moving through the special land use permit process, Faulkner said they are Great Lakes Cannabis, Green Koi, and Bloom Operations.

It was later noted that it’s possible all three applications could be the subjects of public hearings at the April regular Planning Commission meeting.

Also, it was reported that the applications turned in so far involve existing structures (among those mentioned were the former Hair Hut location and the Betty’s Buddies building) with one exception where new construction would be involved.

Schinkerle said he is with Bloom Operations and is “very excited to be in the process” for a property along U.S. 12.

Dan Mills later commented, saying he is with Exclusive Healing which also has a Special Land Use application pending.

In response to a question from Blaszczyk as to how the applicants will be chosen since there are a limited number of licenses in different categories, Harvey said the Village Council will decide through a bidding process as spelled out in the village’s Marihuana Ordinance.

“Once the council opens up the bidding period, which is not open yet … Once the bidding opens and they (applicants) file their required materials for the council … the council will then choose,” she said.

In his Village Manager report to planners, Faulkner said the process of hiring a new police chief was within a week to 10 days of beginning to conduct interviews with candidates.

He said the Parks and Recreation Commission is working on issues such as adding an ice rink, a pickleball court and a dog park to the village along with making upgrades to Hoadley Trail.

Faulkner said work is being done to repair the aftermath of a water leak at the corner of Tulip and U.S. 12. He said a water main will be removed and replaced.

Svebakken said planners have been talking about some sort of a gateway entrances to the village (with options ranging from new signage to a central “focal point”) for about a decade, suggesting that it may be time to take another look at the subject with a work group made up of DDA and Planning Commission members. Planners Tom Flint, Ayla Batton and Colleen Newquist expressed interest in being involved. Faulkner said he would bring up the subject with DDA members.

The Planning Commission also elected Batton as Planning Commission secretary during the March 2 meeting.

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