Despite pleas from neighboring business owners, Elgin's planning and zoning commission gave the thumbs-up to plans for a marijuana dispensary in the city's southwest side.
Commissioners voted 6-1 to recommend allowing Chicago-based Salveo Health & Wellness Ltd. to open a dispensary at 1330 Crispin Drive, Unit 215, in the Fox Bluff Corporate Center on the northeast corner of Bowes Road and McLean Boulevard. The Elgin City Council will have ultimate say.
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In Elgin, dispensaries would only be allowed in industrial and office parks, and at least 1,000 feet from schools, group homes, and residential areas.
Salveo CEO Alex R. Thiersch said the dispensary would have two armed security guards during business hours, plus motion sensors and cameras with video feed connected to a security company, the Elgin Police Department and Illinois State Police. Staff members and patients would have to go through criminal background checks.
"The security measures that we are going to have in place are going to be so sound and so tight and in conjunction with the Elgin Police Department, literally there won't be the ability to commit crime around these premises," he said.
Theresa Morehead of Harting Inc. and Jason Hogan of Abrasive Technology, however, said that even if Salveo is secure, they're concerned about vandalism and crime affecting theirs and other nearby businesses.
Illinois' four-year medical marijuana pilot program, available to people suffering from about 40 chronic illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson's disease, went into effect Jan. 1.
The state hasn't opened up yet the application process to issue licenses to up to 21 growers and 60 dispensaries, including two in Kane County.
Thiersch said he picked Elgin, where he and his wife have family, because it's a large and growing community.
The business would be discreet, said attorney Peter Bazos, who represents Salveo.
"For all outward appearances, it could be a health food store," Bazos said.
Even the best laid plans can falter, said Joe Graziano Jr., part owner of Terri Lynn Inc. and Packaging By Design.
"There are going to be glitches, and we're the ones who are going to suffer the glitches," he said.
Many neighboring business owners raised concerns about increased traffic at the industrial park.
Elgin resident Jen Howver, who has fibromyalgia, said she would welcome the dispensary to Elgin. Medical marijuana can help people like her, she said, adding data does not support the notion that dispensaries lead to increased crime.
"I've been waiting for this," she said.
City staff members recommended approval of Salveo's petition after determining it meets the criteria set by the city's zoning code, Community Development Director Marc Mylott said.
"We understand there are philosophical issues (...)," he said. "But this is a zoning matter."
Newly sworn Commissioner Corey Dixon, who cast the only "no" vote, said he was concerned about the location.
Commissioner Beth Kruger said she shared some of those concerns but still voted yes.
"I think a dispensary here in Elgin can be a very good business and be well received," she said.
"We have to live with it because the city council, and it's our ordinance," Commissioner Anthony Pedote said.