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Greenville planners lay out landscaping desires for Green Medicine Shop
GREENVILLE — For a second consecutive meeting, members of the Greenville Planning Commission have expressed their desire that with a new commercial industry also comes improvements and beautification to the city’s North Lafayette Corridor.
What comes next will be another chapter in the balancing act between the commissioners and property owners who have come forward in pursuit of opening the first medical marijuana provisioning centers in the city.
During Thursday’s meeting, Matt Bonner, co-owner of Green Medicine Shop at 500 N. Lafayette St., brought forth a revised preliminary site plan for commissioners to consider and evaluate after being told last month that his proposed site plan to expand his operations to include being a medical marijuana provisioning center would need a more detailed and expansive landscape design.
What resulted Thursday was more of the same — commissioners considering allowing a new marijuana business, via a special land use request, that adheres to the city’s zoning ordinances.
In presenting his revised site plan, Bonner laid forth a landscape plan that would see bushes and ferns placed along Lafayette Street, as well as Gibson Street, with 10 feet of parking lot removed along Gibson Street and replaced with “green” space.
While there were no concerns about the business and building — which Matt and his wife Shawnee have operated since 2020 — commissioners expressed their continued desire to see more landscaping, meeting the requirements of the city’s ordinances, proposed in the plan.
City Planner Andy Moore of Williams & Works said as the property stands now, a heavy amount of additional landscape is needed, primarily because while the building size itself would only require as many as 19 parking spaces, the current parking lot features 49 spaces, essentially creating an “asphalt field,” as it was constructed long before the city had zoning requirements.
“It is a fairly large, empty parking lot that is not well-landscaped right now, let’s put it that way,” he said. “So the Planning Commission can ask for more landscaping, or you can also accept less. That’s part of it being a judgment call; however, I would also encourage you to kind of make sure that you are doing as much as you can to improve that North Lafayette coordinator, thinking about the bigger picture and talking about what’s in the city’s Master Plan. There’s an emphasis in our plan about beautifying, improving the North Lafayette corridor.”
Commissioners did not disagree with Moore’s assessment.
To start, Commissioner Pete Frye asked that Bonner adjust his plan to not feature bushes and ferns, but to instead include six trees along Lafayette Street and five trees along Gibson Drive, as is required per the zoning ordinance.
Bonner’s architect, Cody Newman of Driven Design in Battle Creek, said there would be no problem in adjusting the plan to meet that requirement. However, Bonner expressed a concern that trees along Lafayette Street could present a problem with vision for customers entering and exiting his business.
“The thing we are nervous about, being on an MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) road, is visibility,” Newman said on behalf of Bonner. “But we would be willing to do it, but as close to the building as possible.”
Additionally, City Manager George Bosanic said City Engineer Doug Hinken reported that a “green belt” of landscaping approximately nine to 10 feet in width could be installed along the perimeter of the property without endingangering requirements for parking lot spaces or driving lane widths. With such a green belt, Moore said the Bonners likely would not be forced to install various landscape islands throughout the parking lot.
As commissioners weighed items, including the potential of giving the Bonners an extended timeline to complete landscaping requirements, Vice Chairman Greg VanderMark expressed concern.
“I am very concerned that we’re going to be setting a precedent with some of these items that we are approving,” he said.
Bosanic did not disagree, stating that such conditions could be argued in the future by any applicant pursuing a special land use request.
“Whatever decisions you make here are not necessarily German to medical marijuana, they are German to special use,” he said. “You have to have a good reason, because you are going to have to justify it later.”
Bosanic also informed commissioners that there is a high likelihood the City Council will eventually discuss, and potentially approve, the industry of adult use (recreational) marijuana. At that time, if any medical marijuana provisioning centers choose to expand and also sell under that license, they would be required to pursue another special land use.
“The current policy is to get these medical marijuana provisioning centers established, see how they function, and then take the next step,” he said. “One of the things you have to keep in the back of your mind … If the city allows recreational marijuana, when someone comes back for that special land use, it’s going to be much more difficult for you to enforce these kinds of changes at that time because the use of the property (from medical to adult use) doesn’t change that much. It’s not enough of a change in the use to warrant the type of changes you want to see in the landscaping, so if you want those changes, this is your opportunity.”
Bonner indicated he and Shawnee would be pursuing adult use marijuana if that market becomes available.
“George is correct — there isn’t any money in medical marijuana. It’s in adult use,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying hard to do with what we have, to get through the medical process, so when adult use happens, within the next year or two, we’ll be ready.”
Bonner stressed that as banks don’t approve loans for marijuana businesses and the medical marijuana industry currently doesn’t generate large profits, it leaves he and Shawnee in a hard spot, utilizing their own funds, to make the improvements asked of the commission .
“We’d love to do all of these things you’re asking, there’s just no money for it,” he said. “That’s why people have been pushing hard for adult use marijuana in previous meetings.”
Bonner asked that the commission give him specifics to work with.
“We want that three quarters of an acre to look like a beautiful oasis,” he said. “I know you guys are asking a lot, so we would like to get a general consensus of what you folks are looking for, to where we can come back and say, here’s what we have, let’s get going.”
“That’s a perfect request,” Commission Chairman David Ralph agreed. “We’ve had situations like this with applicants, where there are financial constraints. I understand exactly the position you (Bonner) are in, wanting to pursue this opportunity and pull all of this together. It’s hard. However, we’re also in a position where we are trying to represent the city and follow some protocols that have been set.”
Commissioners honed in on their discussion and laid out specifics — the first being that the Bonners commit to either installing the required amount of trees or three-foot hedge “fence” along Lafayette and Gibson streets.
Additionally, commissioners agreed that a third green strip approximately 10 feet in width should be placed on the north edge of the property, mirroring the south edge of the property along Gibson Drive.
In regard to two light poles at 30 feet in height, which exceeds the zoning ordinance’s height limit, the commission agreed to let those stand until a time comes when they would need to be replaced due to poor condition.
Commissioners sided with Bonner on not requiring a green strip of landscaping on the east edge of the property, as he explained he needed that space to store plowed snow in the winter months.
Lastly, the commission asked that Bonner adhere to the city’s ordinance that requires curb along the street, of which there is none along Gibson Drive.
Even with those additions, Moore said the Bonners likely are still not meeting the city’s zoning requirements for landscaping on the property, due to the large nature of the parking lot. However, he expressed that in requiring the strip of landscaping on the north side of the property, that could make up for the lack of parking lot landscape islands.
Bonner can now bring forth another preliminary site plan for additional review or ask that a public hearing be scheduled for review of a final site plan and potential approval of his special land use request.