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Above is a rendering of Cresco Labs’s five-year expansion plan. The drawing was part of the site review presentation at the Planning Commission meeting on May 11. (Rendering courtesy of ArchIdeas)

Planning Commission— Cresco to expand, add jobs

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Local medical marijuana producer Cresco Labs is planning a $40 million expansion at its Yellow Springs facility over the next five years, with plans to add 140 jobs over that time.

On Tuesday May 11, the Village Planning Commission unanimously approved a site plan review for the multi-phase expansion at its location at the western edge of the village at 1130 Yellow Springs Way. The plan was submitted by architect Ted Donnell and Cresco’s vice president of government affairs, Christian Ficara.

Planning Commission members Frank Doden, Stephen Green, Laura Curliss, Sarah Amend and Susan Stiles voted in favor of the expansion at the medical marijuana cultivation and processing plant. The approval was required as the property is zoned as a Planned Unit Development, or PUD.

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Donnell and Ficara presented an expansion plan that involves building two additional structures and an expanded parking lot. Current buildings will stay in operation while new buildings to the east and west side of existing structures are constructed. The older buildings will then be phased out and remodeled after the newer buildings are completed.

According to Ficara, the decision to expand was influenced by increasing revenues generated from the Yellow Springs location. Cresco’s 2020 revenues brought in $7.6 million in sales. From those profits, $1.15 million in taxes were paid, according to information presented at the meeting. 

“Given promising numbers, we really felt now was the time to not only reinvest in the facility but it’s time to double down on Yellow Springs,” Ficara said. “The Village has been incredibly welcoming and wonderful to work with.”

The five-year plan also includes increasing the number of employees working at the site.

“We’re keen on continuing our commitment of creating good local jobs both direct and indirect jobs,” Ficara said.

The Cresco facility in Yellow Springs currently employs 79, with full-time employees earning more than $40,000 with benefits.

The company plans to initially hire an additional 33 people, an increase of just over 40% of the current workforce. In total, the five-year plan will bring an additional 140 people for a total of around 220 full-time employees.

According to materials presented at the meeting, Cresco anticipates $16 million projected wholesale sales next year, and $2.4 million in taxes. By 2023, those figures are expected to grow to between $57 million and $95 million in sales and $8 million to $14 million in tax payments to all government entities.

The current facility is about 48,000 square feet. When construction is complete the facility will grow to 144,724 square feet. They will also add 207 parking spaces for cars and motorcycles and an additional 40 feet of bike rack.

The company also plans to get rid of the greenhouse, according to Donell.

“They don’t work for cultivation, they are inefficient for yields,” he said. “Therefore the idea is to go with black boxes that use low LED lighting in stages, so it simulates seasons and daylight.

But getting through the process of expansion involves zoning and regulations at local, county and state levels, a difficult undertaking according to Donnell. Securing the proper zoning approval is the first step in navigating the complex Ohio marijuana control regulations.

“A single delay is pushing a difficult construction schedule, so this zoning approval is incredibly important to us” he said.

Donnell also told the commission that there will be construction traffic through each phase, and security will be tight. “Everyone is monitored, checked at the building and each time you go from area to area.”

“It’s a complicated project, but we are excited to be involved in it,” Donnell said,

Planning Commission member Stephen Green asked about any issues related to the marijuana odor emitted from the site. Donnell responded that the mechanical systems are designed to alleviate the odors.

“Since I’ve been there, I’ve not had any odor issues with the filter systems,” he said.

Former Planning Commission member Rose Pelzl spoke as a citizen about the odor issue.

“I would like to say that as a community member I would argue with the fact that there isn’t spill from the odors of the Cresco facility,” she said.

However, she said “if it was a tomato growing greenhouse would it be as smelly, and would we mind as much? I think it’s a stigma and an agricultural use.”

Ficara said the company will continue to monitor the odor around the facility.

“We are always looking for state-of-the-art technology and mitigation systems for odors, so I have no doubt that when it comes to this expansion, we’ll be using top of the line machinery and technology to ensure that stays in-house,” he said.

According to Donnell, the building will be a structural steel building with a metal facade.  When asked about whether it was possible to amend the façade to include a more welcoming appearance, Donnell said that because of security concerns at the facility, “you can’t have a lot of stuff on the wall.”

“We can’t do a lot of things that we would normally do by state regs,” he said.

Commission alternate Matthew Kirk suggested natural landscaping.

“It would be encouraging for them to plant wildflowers or something like that. In between the area from the road to the property. It’s not going to be a height thing, but it would still make it look like a more natural part of the landscape.”

Commenting on ways to improve the look of a metal façade, Ficara committed to working with the village for solutions.

“One of the things about Cresco is our facilities, whether it’s retail or cultivation, is that we try to make them really bright and vibrant and welcoming,” he said.

Founded in 2013, the Chicago-based medical marijuana company employs around 2,000 people across the country. It is operational in 10 states and owns 18 cultivation and production facilities, including the facility located in Yellow Springs.

Construction at the location site concluded in 2017 and Cresco received a certificate of cultivation in 2018 and certification of operation processing in 2021 from the state of Ohio.

The site plan review was approved by the planning commission with the following conditions:

To allow the option for an entrance for passenger vehicle traffic for East Enon Road.

• Maintain a maximum height for the parking lot fixtures at 20 feet.

• That a front façade design be enhanced with design or landscaping as approved by staff.

• Phased parking so they don’t have to build more than is needed.

• Third loading dock area if needed (which is less than what is required because of the size of the facility). They currently have two but may add an additional dock.

In other Planning Commission business —

Four TGLs permitted

Planning Commission members reviewed four conditional use applications for transient guest lodging establishments, or TGLs, after Council passed an ordinance on May 3 requiring TGLs to be operator occupied. The ordinance is scheduled to take effect on June 3, so the applications were considered under the previous law.

The first TGL application was submitted by property owner Jill Pauley to build a 650-square-foot garage with an ADU, or accessory dwelling unit, on the second level at 402 N. Winter St. Pauley said she intended to use the ADU as both a dwelling and TGL. Commission members Frank Doden, Laura Curliss, Susan Stiles and Stephen Green voted to approve the application by a vote of 4–1 in favor of approving the ADU separately from the TGL. Member Sarah Amend voted against approval. As part of the conditions, the applicant must orient the garage doors towards North Winter Street and seek a variance to do so from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The commission also voted 3–2 with commission members Amend and Susan Stiles opposing, to approve the TGL permit for the ADU. According to the conditions set by the commission, the applicant must obtain and provide to the zoning administrator an inspection from the Miami Township Fire Rescue for the ADU prior to its use as a TGL.

Pauley’s application received the most attention by the commission in a discussion that lasted well over an hour. Swinger stated that conditional uses are good for one year. If the structure is not built, Swinger asked the commission if Pauley could keep the permission for the TGL.

According to Village Solicitor Breanne Parcels, “if the structure had not been built in that year, permission for the TGL would expire, and it could not receive permission again, given the new TGL rules in place.”

Pauley, who currently resides in California, said that she would use the ADU when in town to visit family. There is also a main house on the property that is occupied by a long-term renter. Pauley explained that she was seeking permission for TGLs for both the ADU and the home in case the building of the ADU fell through.

Neighbors on both sides of the location wrote letters citing concern for both the height of the garage, and the placement of a proposed driveway in addition to the planned use of the ADU for transient guest lodging. 

While acknowledging that Pauley courteously wrote a letter about her intentions to build a garage/apartment, resident Judy Woods stated her concerns in a letter addressed to the commission. Woods wrote, “My concern is how that structure would fit on the property and still respect current regulations for acceptable dimensions and for distances from structures to property lines.”

Woods, citing similar concerns with TGL density, mentioned during the public hearing that there were already three or four TGLs in her neighborhood. Believing that the village should place a moratorium on TGLs for the time being, Woods asked in her letter to the commission opposing the TGL, “how densely do we want to allow homes to be put to transient guest use? Do we want to have TGLs take over an entire street or neighborhood?”

Another neighbor, Susan Wolf, who lives across the street from Pauley’s property mentioned oversight in her letter to the planning commission stating her opposition to the proposed TGL.

“We are dismayed that a short‐term rental unit may still be built across the street from our home — by a very out‐of‐town landlord. No matter how good the intentions, there is no way that short term rentals can be less than a nuisance — at least from time to time — when there is no onsite oversight,” Wolf wrote.

Both the ADU and TGL were approved with the condition that the ADU has to be constructed, and the TGL in use one year from the date of the Planning Commission approval.

One TGL was approved for the property after the owner withdrew her request for two.

A conditional use application for a TGL at a property owned by Elizabeth Gish at 324 West Davis St. was approved by the planning commission by a vote of 4–1 with member Amend voting against it.

Gish explained that she plans to operate as an owner-occupied TGL on a limited basis, which she described as three to four times a month when she is out of town. She told the commission, “we do live here, and I have a strong interest in making sure that the people who are staying here are trustworthy on Airbnb.”

Gish also told the commission that she’s heard some concerns and talk in Yellow Springs that TGLs raise affordable housing issues. However, in her situation, a TGL “does make it more affordable for me to live in Yellow Springs,” she said.

“It ends up that it’s a little bit of a stretch for us. We’ve faced some unexpected costs, so it helps,” she said of a TGL.

Three letters were submitted to the commission in opposition to Gish’s request for a TGL, two from neighbors on either side of Gish’s home and one down the street. One letter cited guests smoking in her driveway near the person’s home. In response, Gish said she would not allow smoking at the site.

Gish’s TGL application was approved by the commission if certain conditions are met including, the owner’s request that the TGL be available for a maximum of four days per month, and that there be a designated smoking area at least 15 feet from every property boundary if smoking is allowed by the owner on their property.

A TGL within a single-family dwelling at 437 Suncrest Drive was also approved by the commission. The property, owned by former villager and teacher Aurelia Blake, was previously approved for a transit guest lodging permit. Owners Jonathan Dalmau and Logan Ginsburg purchased the home from Blake and “want to use it as a TGL,” according to Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger.

Swinger described it as “a downstairs suite with its own private entrance and bathroom.”

The property includes four off street parking spots available, and the owners, who will be living on the property, told the commission they were prepared to add two more spaces at the request of their neighbors. No opposition letters were filed against the proposed application.

After Amend’s motion to deny approval of the TGL application based on proximity to other TGLs failed, the commission voted to approve the application by 4–1 with a condition that if owners allow smoking on the property there be a designated smoking area at least 15 feet from every property boundary. Amend voted against approval.

A conditional use application submitted by property owner Josh Myers for an ADU and TGL guest lodging at 202 Fairfield Pike was approved by the commission by a vote of 4–1 with Susan Stiles opposing. No letters of opposition were submitted from neighbors.

Myers, one of the property owners, is from Columbus. While he and his partner have no plans to move to Yellow Springs yet, they do want to consider moving when their kids are school age. Currently, there is a long-term renter occupying the house. The commission approved Myers’ conditional use application as long as there will be a designated smoking area at least 15 feet from every property boundary. The vote was 4–1, with Stiles opposing.

The next Planning Commission Meeting is Tuesday June 15th at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.

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