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Joliet zoning panel says yes to marijuana businesses

Megann Horstead | 11/11/2019, 7:32 p.m.
The Joliet Plan Commission gave its stamp of approval to the Joliet City Council recommending zoning regulations for marijuana businesses ...
Members of the Joliet Plan Commission meet during a special session held last week to provide recommendations to the Joliet City Council as to where marijuana business establishments should be zoned in the city.

The Joliet Plan Commission gave its stamp of approval to the Joliet City Council recommending zoning regulations for marijuana businesses at a special meeting. The panel’s decision did not come without some opposition. John Dillon, chairman for the Joliet Plan Commission, said he is concerned for the zoning of recreational marijuana businesses, as well as the sale of it. “We vote on this one way or another way, but actually we’re not voting whether or not it is a law,” he said. The Joliet City Council will have the final say on if and where recreational marijuana sales are in allowed in town. It remains unclear when the council members will put this matter to a vote.

At a recent meeting, the Joliet City Council voted to authorize a sales tax for recreational marijuana, but that decision did not indicate if the city would permit it. Municipalities across the state have the authority to opt in or opt out of allowing recreational marijuana sales under the Cannabis Sales and Taxation Act, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020. After which, the sale of recreational marijuana will become legal. Currently, the city allows for medicinal marijuana uses in the R-B Restricted Business and B-3 General Business districts.

Several people took time to comment on the proposed zoning regulations for recreational marijuana businesses at the panel’s special meeting. Mike Hansen, a local attorney representing Green Thumb Industries’ 3C Compassionate Care Center Joliet, said he urges the panel to vote in favor of the zoning regulations. “We have reviewed what the staff has done,” he said. “We think they did a thorough job. We think they’ve protected the citizens in the proper way.” Commission Member Jason Cox questioned if the license extended to recreational marijuana businesses is similar to those selling alcohol. Kendall Jackson, community development director for the city, said it’s the same premise. The idea of allowing recreational marijuana sales has dominated public meetings in and around suburban Illinois in recent months. Commission Member Brigette Fiday acknowledged there is a bit of a fear for safety based on this topic.

Staff is recommending that the city move forward with allowing zoning for recreational marijuana establishments by way of special use permits in an exclusion overlay district, which, in essence, prevents businesses of this type from occupying space in proximity to certain downtown Joliet institutions such as city hall, the courthouse, the library and the museum. Should the regulations pass, distance requirements would be in place restricting establishments of this type from setting up shop within 500 feet of pre-existing schools, nurseries and daycare facilities, as well as within 250 feet of residentially-zoned properties. Dillion was the lone commission member voting twice against putting zoning regulations in place to accommodate marijuana businesses as special use in B-2 Central Business and B-3 General Business districts. In a third vote, he sided with the rest of the panel recommending zoning for businesses of this type in the I-1 Light Industrial, I-2 General Industrial and I-T Intermodal Terminal districts.

The next regular meeting of the Joliet City Council is Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m.