MENOMINEE—Attitude Wellness/Lume Cannabis Co., which is suing the City of Menominee over the way the city awarded marijuana retail licenses, received the Menominee Planning Commission’s approval Tuesday to proceed with plans to open a marijuana store where La Cabana restaurant is located on 10th Street.
The planning commission needed to approve a special-use permit for the site, which is in a C-2 commercial zone because of its proximity to the waterfront, for Attitude Wellness/Lume’s retail license to be fully approved. At the suggestion of the Marijuana Selection Committee, the Menominee City Council approved the company’s medical marijuana retail license on the condition the company receive the special-use permit.
The five planning commission members in attendance Tuesday voted to approve the special-use permit with the condition the plans be approved and necessary permits be granted by the State Bureau of Construction Codes and the City of Menominee. Two commission members—Tyler Uecke and Gina Sorensen—were absent from the meeting.
Kris Rusch was elected commission chair at the meeting because former chair, attorney Kim Coggins, resigned last month due to a conflict of interest, according to minutes from the last meeting. Other members present were Carol Kramer, Peter Mayhew, Mike Menor and Brian Nutter.
Before voting on a motion to approve the permit, the commissioners heard public comment from seven people, including Menominee City Council member Frank Pohlmann, who represents the 4th Ward and sits on the Judicial & Legal/Personnel & Labor Committee.
Pohlmann urged the planning commission to “establish a very high bar in granting any special-use permit” for a waterfront location because the waterfront wasn’t in discussion when the city council passed the marijuana ordinance. “It was clear no marijuana establishment should be located there,” Pohlmann said. Pohlmann said he didn’t want the planning commission to set a precedent that would allow other marijuana stores in C-2 districts.
Logan Stauber, co-chief executive officer of Fire Station Cannabis Co., which received licenses for a marijuana store and processing center in Menominee, opened the public comment period with a rebuttal to a five-page letter Lloyd Flanders President John Warren Juliano wrote to the planning commission that referenced “many reasons why Lloyd Flanders is so concerned” about marijuana stores opening near its facility. The letter described a video showing over 1,000 cars reportedly lined up to use a marijuana store in Negaunee, Mich. It also raised concerns about parking and crime.
Stauber said, “The video was taken at our facility on 4-20. That is a cannabis holiday where there are lot of users.” It is from 2019 when Fire Station was the only cannabis store and operated out of an 800-square-foot facility with a very small parking lot. The store the company plans to build will be 8,000 square feet and more efficient. “In that building, we had two cash registers. In the building we’re proposing, there will be 12 cash registers,” he said.
He also addressed a concern raised in the letter about how the amount of cash might make the new store a target. “It’s unusual for us to keep cash in our facility for long periods of time,” he said. The store uses armored trucks to pick up the cash.
Butler Derek, plant operations manager from Lloyd Flanders, which is located near the proposed site, spoke about the company’s safety concerns over a marijuana store being located on 10th Street, which is also U.S. 41. “Our employees—98% of them—have to cross 41,” Derek said.
“The settings on the actual stoplight are not set to our plant time when our employees enter and exit, so there is a safety concern,” he said.
Menominee attorney Randall Philipps, one of the attorneys representing Attitude Wellness/Lume in its lawsuit against the City of Menominee, said the prior zoning recommendation was not binding. “In order to avoid controversy and limit your liability, when someone comes forward that is consistent with your ordinance, you shall approve it.”
Philipps also disputed the notion the store would attract 10,000 cars per day and instead said 100 cars per day would be more likely. “In no fashion will this facility be an undue burden,” Philipps said.
Joe Dulack, a realtor and a property owner of 4.8 acres of undeveloped property adjacent to the site, said Lloyd Flanders is operating in an obsolete building that’s past its lifetime. “Sometimes you’ve got to change with the times,” he said.
Dulack said he visited Fire Station, Lume and Rize stores in other cities “to see what it’s all about.”
“It’s a highly regulated business. It’s got great security. I was impressed at the professionalism,” Dulack said.
Mark Pontii, an Iron Mountain business consultant who works with Lume, spoke about the company’s presence in other areas. “Lume beautifully restored a dilapidated building in downtown Iron Mountain across the street from a soon-to-be-built hotel complex. They don’t overpromise and under deliver.”
A Lume employee, who described himself as a manager, spoke of the “upwards of 30 jobs” Lume plans to bring to Menominee with full benefits, including a 401k retirement plan with company match. “These are jobs you don’t find, especially in retail,” he said. “It’s hard to find an employer that’s going to commit to these jobs … They provide a good life for me and my family,” he said.
Pohlmann said also spoke of his concern about the proximity to Spies Athletic Field. Youth athletes going to Spies are routinely dropped off at the La Cabana parking lot. “I can see this use is not necessarily a great combination,” he said.
Architect Kyle Blomquist of Blomquist Architects in Iron Mountain, Mich., presented Attitude Wellness/Lume’s plans for the site and said, “We understand marijuana use carries a certain stigma.”
The design of the proposed store is discreet. The sign won’t say cannabis, Blomquist said. “It presents itself as a professional office building. It could be a cosmetics company’s home office,” he said.
“The proposed development site was deemed an ideal fit,” Blomquist said, because it provides easy access, has a beautiful backdrop in the Bay of Green Bay and is a distance from residential housing.
Before voting to approve the special-use permit, Rusch encouraged Attitude Wellness to consider working with the city on an easement for a public walkway along the waterfront.
Commissioner Carol Kramer said the location of Spies Field, which is only used for sports for part of the year, shouldn’t be an issue. “I would hope parents would discipline kids to not go to Lume until they are of age and understand what they are doing,” she said.
She said she was concerned about uprooting La Cabana restaurant, but hoped it would be replaced with another family restaurant on the site.
“We have lost many restaurants, and I really am going to miss La Cabana, but the economics of the new business takes priority over my restaurant preference, so maybe sometime in the future if you want to work with us, you could build us a new restaurant somewhere. That would be a great idea,” said Kramer. “I could definitely forward” the suggestion to the company, Blomquist said.