By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — Two new recreational marijuana retailers could be making their way onto U.S. 131 in the coming months.
On Monday, the Three Rivers Planning Commission sent special exception permit approval recommendations to the Three Rivers City Commission for two applicants: TR Retailer LLC and Three Rivers NZ LLC, both of which plan to open recreational marijuana provisioning centers along the highway.
Both recommendations will be taken up by the city commission at their next meeting Tuesday, Oct. 3.
TR Retailer LLC, if their permit is approved, would be operating as “Cannabis Outlet” at 745 S. U.S. 131 in the retail business plaza across from Meijer, and will be located between Subway and Wild Bill’s Tobacco. Jevin Weyenberg, one of the co-owners of the business, said his company also owns the Lake Effect and Doja retail stores, and that the Three Rivers store would be the eighth in their company’s portfolio.
“We are excited about coming down here for a number of reasons,” Weyenberg told commissioners during the public hearing. “Number one is it’s right in our neighborhood; three of the four owners all live in the Portage area, one of them lives in the Detroit area, but we’re all from Michigan.”
Weyenberg said he expects to hire between 15 and 20 people for the store. During his comment, he advocated for the commission to consider allowances in the city’s marijuana ordinance for 24-hour locations, something that one of his stores, Lake Effect in Portage, opened back in January. Planning Commission Liaison John Beebe told commissioners later that 24-hour locations was not “pertinent” for recommending approval.
In the initial renderings and planning documents for the building given to the commission, one thing that was noticeably missing from them was a separate room at the entrance for a reception area/vestibule before heading into the main area of the building, an area that is a requirement in the city ordinance. Weyenberg told commissioners that omission was an “oversight” in the drawings and that they would be submitting updated drawings that will have a vestibule at the entrance.
“I think there was a little issue with the initial drawing; we will be building a vestibule at the entrance for IDing people,” Weyenberg said. “That was a slight oversight; we had some debate with the CRA [Cannabis Regulatory Agency] about what constitutes a vestibule, and we have some stores that are larger and designed a bit differently where we ID people right at the door when they walk in, so it’s not like what you would think of as a traditional lobby. So, I think some of that communication might have gotten mixed up.”
Commissioner Jenny Koski said the vestibule issue was her only issue with the application, and praised them for their intention to submit updated plans quickly.
“The fact it was recognized and they will be resubmitting plans, I’m good with that,” Koski said.
Beebe said there were some remaining items that still needed to be cleaned up with the plans, including specifying “limited access” areas of the store, providing specifications for secure access rooms, and providing additional specifications with their security system for nighttime security measures. However, contingent on those changes being made, the recommendation for approval was approved unanimously by the planning commission.
As for Three Rivers NZ, they would be doing business as “Gramz Three Rivers,” located at 223 N. U.S. 131 in the River Crossings Plaza in a space near the Goodwill donation drop-off area. Steven Kilano, one of the owners of the business, told commissioners he and his business partner, Joe Pattah, chose Three Rivers for its “big city feel” as a small town.
“The last three months, we’ve been scouting, and town after town, some were more lackluster than others. We said, Three Rivers, let’s go down to Three Rivers, see what it has. We didn’t have any expectations, three hours away from where we live, but as soon as we got down 131, we said this was different,” Kilano said. “It’s really nice, we liked it and we liked the area.”
They originally wanted to take the space in the plaza near Harbor Freight and Verizon, but Kilano said they decided against it to keep a more “family friendly” feel on that end of the plaza, saying it “didn’t mix too well.”
Kilano, who also owns another marijuana retail store in the Mount Morris area in Genesee County and a marijuana grow facility in Warren, Mich., said he didn’t consider coming to Three Rivers a “gamble,” and that the building the store would go in was a “great” one in terms of setting up.
“It’s a great building; there’s not too much to do there. That helps out when you’re doing something like this so you don’t spend too much money in an initial new build. So, we’re excited about that,” Kilano said, adding later that if permits go well, the store could be open in the next three to four months.
He also noted some of the items that still need to be cleaned up with their plans, notably fire suppression and ingress/egress, saying that they are in updated plans he would be submitting to the planning commission.
During commissioner discussion, commissioner Karl Armstrong noted the company’s due diligence with taking care of the majority of things that needed to be done on their plans ahead of time.
“Everything was taken care of that was a possibility of concern,” Armstrong said.
The recommendation for approval, contingent on the updated plans being submitted, was approved unanimously.
In other updates from the planning commission…
- Beebe said there has been no additional movement on anybody applying for businesses to go in the former KFC building.
- Beebe said manufacturer TekModo recently split their 78-acre parcel off of William R. Monroe Blvd. into three separate parcels with the intention of possibly building a third building on their campus. However, he said there have been no plans moving forward as of yet with a third building.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.