Sunday, February 5, 2023

Greenville Planning Commission approves plans for Brisk Cannabis at former Ponderosa restaurant

The Greenville Planning Commission approved an application for a medical marihuana provisioning center submitted by R&J Greenville LLC, otherwise known as “Brisk Cannabis,” at 1015 N. Lafayette St. (M-91), the site of the former Ponderosa Steakhouse restaurant in Greenville that closed 11 years ago. — DN file photo

GREENVILLE — Plans for this community’s second medical marijuana provisioning center have been approved and will result in a transformation of the city’s former Ponderosa Steakhouse restaurant.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Greenville Planning Commission, and following a public hearing in which no members of the public provided any comment, commissioners voted unanimously to approve an application for a medical marihuana provisioning center submitted by R & J Greenville LLC, otherwise known as “Brisk Cannabis,” at 1015 N. Lafayette St. (M-91).

Upon opening, the building will once again see occupancy for the first time since Ponderosa closed 11 years ago.

From left, the owners of R&J Greenville LLC, otherwise known as “Brisk Cannabis,” Ricky Li and his uncle, Zhen Li, joined by their architect, Wayne Bickel of Jeffrey Parker Architects in Grand Rapids, address the Greenville Planning Commission on Thursday seeking approval of an application for a medical marihuana provisioning at the former Ponderosa Steakhouse restaurant that closed 11 years ago. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

The approval is the second such decision by the commission, which previously approved an application from Green Medicine Shop Provisioning LLC at 500 N. Lafayette St. in September.

A third client, Cross Country Enterprises II LLC of Kalamazoo, is currently working with the Planning Commission to secure approval of an application to operate a medical marijuana provisioning center at 600 N. Lafayette St.

All three applications are for locations that exist in the new “North Lafayette District,” which was created in February by the commission for the purpose of allowing medical marijuana provisioning centers along the street on the M-91 corridor north of the Flat River.

Adult use (recreational) marijuana dispensaries remain prohibited in the city at this time.

In approving the proposal for Brisk Cannabis, commissioners took into consideration the opinion of City Planner Andy Moore of Williams & Works in Grand Rapids, who said the proposed site plan “meets the spirit” of the city’s various ordinances.

As landscaping for proposed medical marijuana provisioning center site plans has become a focal point of discussion for the commission throughout the review of all three site plan proposals, Moore said the landscaping proposed by Brisk Cannabis was sufficient.

Greenville Planning Commissioners Jeremy Miller, left, and Jack Corner review site plans for a medical marijuana provisioning center to be located at the site of the former Ponderosa Steakhouse restaurant, submitted by R&J Greenville LLC, otherwise known as “Brisk Cannabis,” during Thursday’s meeting. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

“Overall I am comfortable with the landscaping plan they have proposed at this point,” he said. “They don’t meet the requirements along Lafayette Street, but what they have proposed, I feel, is in the spirit of the ordinance.”

While commissioners noted some concerns with specific elements regarding landscaping, such as the removal of dead trees and tree stumps if necessary, building owner Zhen Li said efforts will be made to ensure landscaping is performed as desired by the commission.

“All the landscaping, if it’s needed, we’ll get a landscaping guy for any removal of trees, trees that are overgrown, we’ll cut stuff out and make it look nice,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of tree-cutting we’re going to do. In order to create the detention pond, we have to do that.”

Moore said one issue he identified was a lack of six-inch concrete curbing to surround the building’s parking lots, as the owners have proposed to re-pave the site with a mill and replacement of 1.5 inches of asphalt. As part of a condition of approval, the commission mandated that the six-inch curbing be installed at the same time that the parking lot is repaved.

Both the exterior and interior of the building will be remodeled, with approximately 30% of the existing space in the northwest portion of the building “sectioned off” from use unless Brisk Cannabis plans to expand operations.

As a result of using a smaller portion of the building, Brisk Cannabis has proposed to remove the westernmost portion of the parking lot to create a necessary detention pond. Additionally, they propose to block off a portion of the parking lot — between the detention pond and the eastern portion of the parking lot — to be separated by six-inch bumper blocks, as they do not anticipate needing the additional parking space at this time.

Greenville Planning Commission Chairman David Ralph, left, listens as Vice Chairperson Greg VanderMark asks a question pertaining to proposed landscaping upon reviewing an application submitted by R&J Greenville LLC, otherwise known as “Brisk Cannabis,” for a medical marijuana provisioning center at the site of the former Ponderosa Steakhouse restaurant, during Thursday’s meeting. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

While no objections to these proposals came forth from the commission, City Manager George Bosanic did take pause with the plans proposed for the parking lot.

“If they are going to mill and resurface the entire area, but only stripe the parking spaces that will be required to the west of the building, and everything from there to the detention pond is going to be open asphalt, I’m wondering, if it’s not (illuminated), what would prohibit someone from driving back there and conducting nefarious activity, since it would be accessible and dark?” he asked.

Bosanic said he did not feel six-inch concrete bumpers would be enough to deter troublesome activity.

“I respect the fact that you probably don’t have a nefarious mind, but there are those in the community that do,” he said. “A six-inch bumper block isn’t going to stop everyone, especially those with pickup trucks.”

While two existing light poles in that section of the parking lot could be utilized, Li’s nephew and co-owner, Ricky Li, said there are no plans to operate them at this time, pending potential expansion.

“We would be adding those parking blocks to prevent people from driving through and adding signs that mention the area is prohibited,” he said. “I understand the concern if it’s not well-lit, but we’re not planning to use the two light poles in the back. We were hoping the parking blocks and signage would prevent people from driving through. As far as nefarious activity, our current parking lot is well-lit.”

Members of the commission, Bosanic and Brisk Cannabis reached a consensus that a light pole located in the west end of the parking lot that will be utilized have a “double head” installed to also shine light into the section of the lot that will be blocked off.

“A slightly-angled light on that one light pole could be sufficient,” Moore said. “There’s a good chance it would light the area sufficiently to deter (nefarious) activity.”

With the special land use request approved by the commission, Brisk Cannabis will now move forward with city staff through the final steps of acquiring a medical marijuana provisioning license through the city.

“I know you have more work to do with the city as you prepare to embark on your adventure. The best of luck to you on your future plans,” Commission Chairperson David Ralph said.

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