Cannabis zoning possibilities debated at committee

EDWARDSVILLE — The city’s Administrative and Community Service (ACS) Committee approved the most conservative option for recreational cannabis zoning distances after first reading and an alternative plan Tuesday.

ACS agreed to maintain the distances in Option 1 borrowed from the Illinois Municipal League (IML) model ordinance: 250 feet from a pre-existing residential property and 1,500 feet from any pre-existing public or private, nursery school, pre-school, elementary school, secondary school, daycare center, daycare home or residential care home in Edwardsville and the special use permit remains intact.

City Attorney Jeff Berkbigler said the distance is measured from the building itself to the property line. The city’s plan commission approved the same option at its Oct. 21 meeting.

Under the option that the plan commission approved, there are five areas within the city where a recreational dispensary could legally be built – at the far north end of North Main, near Phillipena and Henry streets; southwest of Route 143 at White Oak Lane, east of Interstate 55; among parts of the retail zone along Governors’ Parkway between Troy Road and Plum Street; near Route 157 and Mengstrasse; and along the north side of 157 between Ginger Creek and Meridian Drive.

Morrison noted that the majority of the maps show gray, meaning most of the city is exempt from this zoning. He brought up an alternative for the rest of the committee to consider. Most of the alderman sat in on the meeting, too, except for Chris Farrar.

“What if we took B-2 out as a possibility and the only zoning district is M-1 and then we eliminate the special use permit requirement?” he asked. “The map’s not going to look a whole lot different.”

He said there are a couple of red areas on the map that are B-2 that he is concerned about. An area at 157 and Mengstrasse is one spot that worries him.

“Rather than us have a licensee pursue a special use permit and going through CBA, plan commission, council every time they want a special use permit, it’s permitted in M-1,” Morrison said.

Will Krause said he liked the concept for the most part.

“So many of these areas, particularly under the most restrictive [map], the land is either undeveloped or fully rented, so it doesn’t provide a lot of options,” Krause said.

City Planner Emily Fultz took a moment to remind everyone that once this committee and later, the full council, passes a new downtown zoning code, it will take the downtown area at North Main and Vandalia streets out of consideration for adult-use marijuana zoning.

“These maps will not be adopted with the ordinance; the distances will,” Fultz said. “We’re giving distances from daycares and schools. If we have a new daycare go in somewhere, that will change this map.”

Fultz said her department took a cursory look at what three cities near Chicago – Lombard, York Villa and Oswego — have permitted with regard to zoning.

“I think this is pretty restrictive in itself, why make it more restrictive?” Alderwoman Janet Stack said and Alderman Craig Louer agreed.

“What’s the purpose of having an ordinance if we make it so restrictive it can’t go anywhere?” Alderman Will Krause asked.

Krause brought up a theoretical situation with a special use permit in which the Wild Birds Unlimited store goes out of business and a dispensary wanted to replace it in the strip mall. Then, he said, any homeowner who lives within 300 feet of the site could come to a public hearing and claim they don’t want it near their homes every single time someone applies.

Alderman Jack Burns said the city council will encounter resistance wherever it goes, including pushback from other businesses, not just residents.

Morrison said the city would be hard-pressed to deny a special use permit.

“I’d just be leery about castigating this legal business differently than other legal businesses,” Berkbigler said. “We don’t require drugstores, pharmacies or liquor stores to locate just in once place.”

He said the distance requirements create enough of a buffer for the concerns that have been looked at. While liquor stores used to have a 100-foot buffer between churches, etc., that has been relaxed under state statutes, he noted.

“I think we have to come up with some sort of justification to treat these legal businesses different than others,” Berkbigler said. “You can do adult uses because of secondary effects that have been proven; there hasn’t been any empirical data showing that marijuana dispensaries have adverse secondary effects that I’m aware of.”

Krause said he wants the process controlled but not so restrictive that people don’t want to try to open such a dispensary in town.

The committee also agreed to strike Section 6.5 of the ordinance, which would have allowed on-site consumption of the newly purchased marijuana products at the dispensaries under certain conditions.

The zoning also adds the following definitions under its umbrella – cultivation center, craft grower, dispensing, infuser, processing or transporting organizations. Any dispensaries will be added as special uses in the B-2 commercial business district while the definers noted above will be permitted in the M-1 light warehouse district (Gateway and Lakeview). Dispensary sales would also be permitted in the M-1 district as a special use.

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