St. Charles to allow two recreational marijuana shops, one on each side of Fox River
Recreational marijuana sales will be allowed as a special use in St. Charles when a new state law takes effect Jan. 1.
Despite pleas from some aldermen to hold off on making a decision, the city council voted 6-3 Monday to approve a zoning amendment that would permit up to two cannabis retailers in town, one on either side of the Fox River.
The move is the final step in what Mayor Ray Rogina called a "transparent, open" process, consisting of five prior meetings and two months of deliberations among city officials, staff members and residents.
"I take umbrage for people to say that this council doesn't listen. It listens. It listens carefully," Rogina said. "Here's an attempt on the part of the majority of this council to look carefully at the issue and see what we can do to address it."
The legalization of adult-use marijuana in Illinois will affect the city's resources regardless of whether any dispensaries move into town, he said. Aldermen who supported the zoning change have said the measure offers an economic opportunity and gives the city some control over the controversial concept.
Opponents pointed to a number of uncertainties in the state law, saying they see no sense in approving cannabis sales locally before legislators work through those details in the fall veto session.
"This amendment was crafted in haste," Alderman Rita Payleitner said. "We can and should pause to work out the bugs in our ordinance and then allow Springfield the chance to do the same."
Under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, municipalities can't outlaw recreational marijuana use or possession in their towns. But they can implement regulations for various retail operations, or ban sales altogether.
The zoning change in St. Charles prohibits on-site consumption lounges, cultivation centers or any related businesses other than dispensaries, which are permitted in the community business and regional business zoning districts. That primarily covers the Main Street/Route 64 corridor outside the downtown, plus some properties along Route 38 and Randall Road on the city's west side.
The special use regulations also require the marijuana retailers to be at least 250 feet away from the property line of any schools, day cares, churches or single-family residences. An operator of one shop must have a year of experience running a medical cannabis facility in St. Charles, while the operator of the other must have operated a medical dispensary within the state for the same amount of time.
Aldermen Ron Silkaitis and Maureen Lewis, along with Payleitner, voted against the measure, saying they don't believe such retail operations are right for the city. Silkaitis also expressed concerns about a lack of standardized roadside testing and other enforcement methods.
Ensuring that the city's existing medical marijuana business stays in town was a driving factor in Aldermen Todd Bancroft's decision to vote "yes," he said. Zen Leaf representatives have indicated the dispensary would likely move to a different municipality if the city chose to ban retail operations.
The regulations approved Monday would not allow Zen Leaf to sell recreationally at its current location within the limited manufacturing district, though the company has requested extending the special use to that area.
To initiate that change, an application would need to be filed by Zen Leaf, or by the city at the direction of aldermen. It would then go through a formal zoning process, which includes a public hearing and consideration by the plan commission and city council.