By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — A new type of marijuana establishment will be considered by the Three Rivers City Commission at a future meeting.
On Monday, the Three Rivers Planning Commission recommended to the city commission approval of an amendment to the city’s marijuana ordinance that would allow consumption lounges to be considered for special exception use permits in the city’s central business district (B-3 zoning area).
If approved by the city commission, it would allow for such businesses to apply for special exception uses to be considered by the city. Currently, only marijuana retail establishments and safety compliance facilities are permitted for consideration in the B-3 zoning district located around the downtown area, outside of the first block of North Main Street.
The proposed amendment was brought to the planning commission via an amendment petition submitted by Daly Broekema, owner of marijuana retailer Daly Dope. In her petition, Broekema wrote that she wants to open a consumption lounge on the third story of her business at 113 Portage Ave. and also host cannabis education classes. The third story of the building is currently vacant.
“It’s going to be a consumption lounge open during regular business hours, but will also host cannabis education classes, like the basics of cannabis, what THC is, what CBD is, what cannabinoids are, rolling classes, food infusion classes, just everything about cannabis you can imagine,” Broekema said in an interview following the meeting. “There’s not anything like it that what I can find, especially consumption-lounge wise, there’s not many around here. It’d bring people down here because it’s a very unique location, and the education classes itself I think is very critical.”
In the proposed amendment, it also lays out requirements for such businesses, such as making sure any marijuana product left at the establishment that’s considered waste is destroyed and disposed of, retainment of on-site security personnel during all business hours, and making sure the business is licensed in the city.
Multiple members of the public, including former Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority director Tricia Meyer and a couple of local business owners, commented their support for such an ordinance amendment during Monday’s meeting, citing the benefit a new business would have to the downtown area.
During discussion by the board, some discussion was had on why the amendment would only be for the B-3 zoning district and not for the other business districts in town. Planning Commission Liaison John Beebe said that is because the petition submitted by Broekema only specified the B-3 district, so that’s all that can be considered at this time.
“That isn’t to say you won’t be asked to consider additional zoning districts in the future,” Beebe added. “This is just the first one.”
There was support among the board to also recommend such an amendment be considered for the B-1 and B-2 business zoning districts in the city, but no such motion was made to do so. Commissioner Chuck Friese indicated later on he may bring up the possibility himself at the next city commission meeting if the ordinance amendment is brought up.
If such a consideration is to be made, Beebe said, it would have to be brought up again separately by the Planning Commission, either by citizen petition or by recommendation of the city commission, prior to it being approved by the city commission.
Commissioners were in support of the proposed amendment, with commissioner Karl Armstrong saying it would be good from a business perspective.
“I think regardless of anyone’s opinion of marijuana, you still have to look at it as bringing business to town, bringing people to town,” Armstrong said.
Commissioner Jenny Koski agreed.
“If there’s a business that wants a path forward, I think we at least have to provide them the opportunity, that path, whether it goes anywhere or not,” Koski said.
If approved, it would be the first municipality in St. Joseph County to allow for consumption lounges to be considered in a business district. Constantine considered such a proposal in 2022, but it was tabled by their village council.
In other business…
In an update on in-the-works projects in the city, Beebe said the developers of the Gardens of Three Rivers assisted living and memory care facility, which has paused construction due to financial issues, have submitted updated financial paperwork and are in the process of cleaning up the construction site.
Continuing the update, Beebe said there is an application for a possible new marijuana retailer to occupy a space at 745 S. U.S. 131 between Subway and Wild Bill’s Tobacco. Beebe said the planning commission could take up the application next month.
When asked if there were any plans for the now-vacant KFC building on the corner of Michigan Avenue and U.S. 131, Beebe said there have been no businesses applications filed for the building.
Commissioners held discussions on corner lots in the city and master plan implementation.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or email@example.com.