By Robert Tomlinson
Editor’s Note: This article contains strong language and threats of violence.
THREE RIVERS — A preliminary plan for the third phase of Meadowbrook Farms was passed by the Three Rivers City Commission in front of a packed audience Tuesday despite a series of outbursts and shouting matches proliferated by a commissioner that nearly got them removed from the meeting.
The preliminary sketch plan for the planned third phase of the Meadowbrook Farms subdivision, according to Planning Commission Liaison John Beebe, is just the first step in what is expected to be multiple steps that will include at least one detailed site plan for the phase, which will come up in the future with more fleshed-out plans for the development.
The plan lays out a sketch of what would be going in with the third phase, which includes 16 new units in the northwest corner of the subdivision on Arizona Boulevard, as well as a temporary turnaround/cul-de-sac. The end of the road would eventually lead into the future fourth phase of the plan.
The Planning Commission, according to city documents, had concerns with the sketches for two reasons. One was regarding the size of the interior roadway system with respect to traffic and on-street parking, and the second was regarding a decision as to whether or not a future road in question for the fourth phase would require or be better served with an alternate access point to and from the subdivision.
Also at issue during discussion at Tuesday’s meeting were lot sizes for the third phase of the development, which are currently planned out to be 66-1/2 feet wide, 6-1/2 feet more than the minimum in the city ordinance, but could be expanded to 80 feet wide. A couple of residents in public comment encouraged the city to have a connecting road to the subdivision in the fourth phase of the project, as well as have lot sizes be 80 feet. Mayor Tom Lowry responding, saying it is up to developers in future site plans whether or not they want to go with 80 feet or 66-1/2 feet.
At-Large Commissioner Lucas Allen, who had interjected a couple of times during the public comment section up to this point, interrupted again out of turn to call out to City Manager Joe Bippus following Lowry saying it was up to the developers, which led to Lowry attempting to gavel him down because the citizen had the floor. Allen lashed out at Lowry for the gaveling, causing a contentious back-and-forth between the two for the next few minutes, in which Allen angrily demanded Lowry apologize to him multiple times, that they would have “a major problem” if Lowry gaveled him down again, and claiming to the citizen commenters that Lowry was “BS-ing” them about the situation and promising that “there will be an exit” in the fourth phase.
During his outburst, Allen also declared his candidacy for mayor in the November election against Lowry, calling Lowry “nothing” in the process. The two went back and forth again, with Lowry asking Allen to “shut up” and Allen saying, “if you don’t shut your fat ass up, I’ll beat your f—ing ass,” while other commissioners at the dais looked on in incredulity.
The commenter continued after this, with Allen interrupting in the middle of it to call out to Allen Edwin Homes representative Brian Wood out of turn to tell him to answer the commenter’s question. Lowry implored Allen to let the citizens talk, with Allen rebutting that “I’m helping the citizens, and you’re not.” Wood attempted to defuse the situation, telling Allen from the audience to let the citizens speak, and then if he needs to answer any questions, he’d do so during commissioner discussion.
During discussion, Wood explained that they presented the plans to the planning commission the week prior, and they had concerns with the width of the lots based on what was already done. Wood said the new lot sizes were based on a revised ordinance that simplified the residential zoning district requirements and combined certain existing districts.
“From my understanding, the city has basically dropped the R-1 designation, and now it’s R-2, so the requirement went from 80 foot to 60 foot. So now we actually exceed the R-2 requirement at 60 feet,” Wood said. “All of our Integrity product will fit within this designed front width, and all our product is 40 foot wide, and will fit into the lots.”
As to the secondary access to the subdivision off Pine Street, Wood said they would be open to having it be available, however he explained that Allen Edwin doesn’t have the legal right to do so yet because they don’t own the property necessary to do so. Wood said if the city was willing to negotiate with them for that secondary access, they would be willing to do so, but they weren’t willing to go with the 80-foot lots with a connection to Pine Street.
“We’ve already done extensive infrastructure installation here for the sanitary sewer and for the storm [sewer], so we’re kind of locked in to the money we’ve already spent for the infrastructure and labor of putting that in. If we do that connection, we can make that connection work to the south,” Wood said, adding that if they make that connection, they might lose three additional lots. “That’s why we submitted the plan showing the 66-1/2 feet, which meets the new ordinance and give us a chance to recoup the lots we would lose by making that extension and recoup some costs for the infrastructure we’ve already put in.”
However, after Wood’s explanation, one of the citizens who commented earlier wanted to ask a question again. Lowry initially denied the request, saying that public comment had closed, with Allen immediately making a motion for the citizen to speak again, which was seconded. Lowry said they would need a vote before the citizen could speak, but Allen disagreed. After the citizen started to speak, Lowry interrupted, saying “we’re not done yet” with discussing the procedure, which led to another outburst by Allen and back-and-forth with Lowry that led to more attempts to gavel him down, nearly led to an adjournment of the meeting and Allen nearly being removed by police, daring Police Chief Scott Boling to “call his people in” and yelling at the crowd to vote Lowry out in November.
Eventually, after City Attorney TJ Reed explained the situation, noting that they have to vote to let the person speak, a vote was taken and approved to let the commenter ask his question, which had to do with the lot sizes and how Allen Edwin had laid down the infrastructure but not had the lot sizes approved. Wood said it was based on them thinking they’d be able to do a cul-de-sac area.
“Again, we took our chances to be able to do that, and again, from what the preliminary plan was overall, even though the city has to go and approve it phase by phase, our overall preliminary plan showed a cul-de-sac. That’s how we moved forward to be able to do that,” Wood said. “We had to have a connection for Phase 2 for the sanitary, and the only way to do that, based on what was available, we could only tie into the southwest corner, because water flows downhill.”
Bippus said city staff were good with leaving the lot size as proposed, and that in regards to the Pine Street right-of-way, they were willing to work with Allen Edwin once it gets to that point. That, he said, would be brought at a separate public hearing, but it is a possibility.
The city eventually approved the preliminary drawing as submitted, which showed the lot sizes on the north side of the third phase at 66-1/2 feet, and the south side lots at 80 feet.
Allen’s outbursts continued throughout Tuesday’s meeting, directed at separate points toward Reed, DDA Director Cameron Mains, At-Large Commissioner Torrey Brown, Police Chief Scott Boling and Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Taylor Davis during other items on the agenda.
Allen attempted to apologize for his behavior at the end of the meeting, saying, “I’d like to say I apologize for anything I say, but let’s be honest, I don’t.” He claimed everything he said in his outbursts was “probably true,” and said that he “cares about every single person in the community.” He did apologize to Lowry, but said if he didn’t receive an apology from Lowry for gaveling him down, he’d consider it a “personal f— you.” No such apology from Lowry was given.
In other business…
*Commissioners approved an ordinance amendment for police regulations that would give discretion to Three Rivers police on whether or not to make a third-degree retail fraud offense a civil infraction or a misdemeanor. Currently, the city does not have a civil infraction option for those type of offenses.
*Commissioners approved setting city budget hearings for Tuesday, May 9 and Tuesday, May 23 from 6-9 p.m., as well as set the public hearing on the city’s budget for Tuesday, June 6 at 6 p.m.
*Commissioners approved ordinance amendments and SEU procedures for new marijuana establishment license applications. The amendments include a six-month timeline to execute the permit, reporting requirements for changes to approved security plans, use of industrial zoning only for all marijuana growers, processors and secure transport facilities, as well as details added to definitions and other corrections for clarification.
*Commissioners approved the hiring of a reserve officer and permission, pending grant funding, to sponsor the officer in the Fall 2023 Kalamazoo Valley Community College police academy as part of a grant that would assist in paying for sponsoring people to go to the academy. The approval would also include personnel funding for an officer’s base salary and benefits in Fiscal Year 2024. Allen was the lone dissenter in the vote, raising concerns about the officer not being required to stay with the police department after they graduate.
*Commissioners approved an additional $24,000 in funds for ferric chloride at the wastewater treatment plant, as well as an additional $45,000 for dewatering polymers for the plant. The additional funds were due to increases in pricing for both materials.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 Replies to “City approves Meadowbrook prelim.
plans despite commissioner’s outbursts, threats toward mayor”
There is no doubt in my mind, Three Rivers will NEVER move forward in a good way for all the citizens until Lowery is voted out…..We need all new ideas and new blood running the city.
Allen threatening others should be evidence he is NOT the man to lead.
Allen should have been arrested. And the commission should have removed him from office.
I wonder if Allen’s comments count as (verbal) assault.