Niles Planning Commission approves special land use request for marijuana microbusiness

NILES — A new marijuana microbusiness may soon take root in Niles’ budding cannabis industry.

Wednesday evening, following a public hearing, the Niles Planning Commission approved a special land use request for an adult use marijuana microbusiness at 215 S. 11th St. The business is owned and operated by Artisan Cultivators/Southland Farms. The request was approved unanimously by all present commissioners.

“The special land use is consistent with the city of Niles’ newly adopted master plan,” said Community Development Director and Zoning Administrator Sanya Vitale. “The special land use is a in a regional commercial zone of budding residential and commercial properties. The proposed use would not change the character of the area. It would offer a clean, upscale retail shop to compliment the corridor.”

The approval was met with excitement by Southland Farms and Artisan Cultivators representatives.

“We are really excited to operate in Niles,” said Mike Noonan, manager of Southland Farms. “We looked all over, and we feel Niles is the best place to operate this type of business, and we look forward to being a real benefit to the community.”

“I’m really looking forward to being a part of the community in every way possible,” added owner and operations manager Kevin Burke. “I like this community so much I purchased a house down the street.”

Despite the applicants’ excitement, some residents are concerned about the provisioning and grow business being located so close to residential property.

E. Main Street resident Kyle Westfall said that while he did not have a problem with the nature of the business itself, he was concerned about parking and increased traffic through the area.

“I have two children, very small, and having it be busier around there really concerns me,” he said. “It won’t be the first time people have parked in front of our driveway when there is not supposed to be any parking. My biggest concern is not knowing who is coming through.”

Another resident, Leila Gray, of Hickory Street, also voiced her concerns at Wednesday’s meeting. She raised concerns about increased traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood. In particular, she expressed concerns about how the microbusiness’ parking lot might obscure visibility for those turning right off of Hickory onto S. 11th Street.

“The parking and the traffic are going to be a real big issue,” she said. “The parking lot is not safe the way it set up right now.”

Planning commissioners proposed several solutions, including blocking off the Hickory Street entrance to the building or placing clear signs to direct parking and traffic.

Following discussion, planning commissioners determined that the microbusiness’ owners should submit a site plan and review, which would give additional consideration to parking and traffic concerns.

“With our other dispensaries, we are very strict with compliance,” Vitale said. “If there are problems, we force the companies to deal with it. We have them hire staff to manage traffic flow and parking. We don’t tolerate overflow into the neighborhood and onto the street, and we don’t tolerate parking issues whatsoever. That is a compliance issue and a safety matter, and we take that very seriously. We don’t anticipate a problem with Southland Farms because it is a matter of compliance in terms of their licensing.”

Following Wednesday’s meeting, Southland Farms representatives said they were happy to work on solving parking and traffic concerns at the S. 11th Street facility.

“We are happy to work with neighbors however we can to deal with traffic flow and parking issues,” Noonan said.

With the special land use request approved, Noonan and Burke hope to get to work in Niles as soon as possible. Should all go to plan, the business plans to start growing by the end of the year.

“This is great, and we are feeling super positive,” Burke said.

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