Des Plaines eases zoning rules for pot shops in downtown and shopping districts

In their continued search for more revenue to run the city, Des Plaines officials have made it easier for cannabis dispensaries to open in town.

Following a public hearing last week, the council added pot shops to the types of businesses permitted in commercial, shopping and manufacturing districts.

That means dispensaries proposed for those zones would only require administrative approval to open. Previously, city code said dispensaries needed case-by-case conditional permits that required formal reviews, public hearings and council approval.

The change could shorten the approval process by two or three months, Des Plaines Economic Development Manager John T. Carlisle said in a memo.

Additionally, the council said dispensaries can open with conditional permits in Des Plaines' downtown business district. They'd previously been banned there.

The council also scrapped a rule that said cannabis-related businesses must be at least 1,500 feet from each other and eased other cannabis-related city codes.

A prohibition on pot businesses within 500 feet of schools or houses of worship will remain on the books, as will sign rules, a ban on on-site consumption and other restrictions.

The city council voted in December 2019 to allow cannabis dispensaries and related businesses in Des Plaines as soon as they became legal statewide the following month. But none yet calls Des Plaines home - which means the city isn't yet receiving the tax dollars that Rosemont, Rolling Meadows, Arlington Heights and other towns with dispensaries are collecting from those businesses' sales.

"The motivation here is economic development," Des Plaines spokeswoman Jennie Vana said. "Recreational cannabis has proved to be an economic success in Illinois, and these changes are designed to help Des Plaines benefit from some of that success."

Alderman Malcolm Chester of the 6th Ward noted a dispensary in Rosemont is across Touhy Avenue from the Des Plaines city line.

"It'd be nice to have (one) in Des Plaines as opposed to in Rosemont or some other community," Chester said.

In the days since the public hearing, city officials have spoken with property owners, brokers and cannabis shop operators about bringing dispensaries to the city, Vana said.

"The changes have already been effective in generating interest," she said.

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