New rules would allow marijuana shops in Rosemont entertainment areas

Two Rosemont entertainment districts are among the locations eligible to host recreational marijuana dispensaries under new zoning rules approved Wednesday by village trustees.

Parkway Bank Park, the prominent 200,000-square-foot complex east of the Tri-State Tollway that opened in 2012, and The Pearl District mixed-use complex, which opened on the other side of the tollway in 2018, are two of the three spots in town that would permit the pot shops, according to the zoning code changes board members signed off on.

A total of two marijuana retailers would be allowed villagewide.

The new rules came on the same day trustees overturned their long-standing ban on video gambling, opening up the possibility for some 40 liquor license holders in town to install as many as six poker machines each.

The village board approvals follow guidance from voters in two advisory referendums in March that showed a majority in favor of pot sales and video gambling. At the same time, village leaders began reconsidering their initial hesitancy once they saw how much tax revenue could be made off both.

Village estimates indicate marijuana sales and the new video machines could bring in a combined $2 million to $3 million a year for municipal coffers.

While there currently are no vacancies at the village-owned Parkway Bank Park, officials are keeping open the possibility it could host a dispensary, bringing daytime foot traffic to an area that normally only comes alive at night.

“Obviously the question was posed and I said, 'Why not?'” said Mayor Brad Stephens. “For the most part, these places right now are popping up everywhere.”

Stephens said there has been preliminary interest from a group that wants to open a dispensary at the entrance to The Pearl south of Balmoral Avenue and west of Pearl Street. The site being eyed is a village-owned piece of land near the Metra station.

But he said a more viable proposal is for the third area that would allow dispensaries — a strip mall on Touhy Avenue just blocks north of the Allstate Arena. It would be a quicker turnaround to get a shop there up and running because of the vacant strip mall space available, as opposed to building from the ground up in The Pearl, he added.

Now that local rules governing dispensaries have been approved, Stephens said formal proposals would be collected and vetted by an internal committee headed by Village Attorney John Donahue.

While the zoning rules can easily be amended, even the possibility of recreational marijuana sales at all is a distinct change from some board members' earlier attitudes on the issue. After marijuana sales were legalized statewide last year, Rosemont trustees were split on whether to opt out or not.

But the advisory question they placed on the spring ballot yielded 59% of voters in favor of allowing the sales.

That led to the board's vote Wednesday to craft new zoning rules, along with approval of a 3% local tax on sales. The village would also be able to collect smaller percentages from its existing home rule sales tax and share of state sales tax.

The video gambling rules approved Wednesday require businesses to have full-service menus and no more than half of gross revenues dedicated to gambling, to avoid the proliferation of gambling cafes, officials said.

“We don't want one of those gaming cafes and a guy with a refrigerator and a couple of six-packs of beer, and now he calls himself a bar,” Stephens said.

So far, Moretti's on Higgins Road and Adobe Gila's in Parkway Bank Park are among those interested in applying for the machines, which also require the approval of the Illinois Gaming Board.

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