Rolling Meadows clears way for town's second pot shop around Golf and Algonquin

Rolling Meadows aldermen voted narrowly Tuesday night to expand city zoning boundaries to allow a single recreational marijuana dispensary in the commercial district on the south side of town.

The changes to city code, approved on a 4-3 second-reading ordinance vote, would permit a dispensary in commercially zoned areas east of New Wilke Road - subject to the approval of a special use permit by the city council.

Supporters said allowing a dispensary in the area - which encompasses the shopping centers along Golf and Algonquin roads - would bring economic benefits to the city and its coffers, instead of losing that revenue to neighboring towns. But opponents argued one marijuana dispensary - Nature's Care, which added recreational sales to its north-side business in 2020 - is already enough for a city of Rolling Meadows' size.

Alderman Jon Bisesi successfully proposed an amendment that limits the number of pot shops in the south-side commercial area to one. He said he feared a proliferation of the shops, based on the city's experience when a video gambling ban was overturned in 2018.

"I feel the council prior to me did a piss-poor job on the casinos, and I don't want that to happen on this," said Bisesi, who nonetheless said he was convinced a "silent majority" of residents are in favor of the loosened zoning rules.

But for Alderman Nick Budmats, whose ward includes the lone dispensary in town, concerns over proliferation were enough to vote against the expanded zoning boundaries.

"I was part of the, to quote you, 'piss-poor' city council that pushed through the casinos or gambling," Budmats told Bisesi. "And this is exactly - exactly - how it happened."

"It started out with just one, and it would only be if it was in a restaurant, and it had been well-established, and it was going to be well-controlled, and it was going to be wonderful, and it was going to generate income. And now you have residents who are like, we didn't do a good job controlling it. It's proliferated."

Bisesi voted with Karen McHale, Mandy Reyez and Lara Sanoica in favor of the expanded zoning rules. Budmats joined Kevin O'Brien and Jenifer Vinezeano in voting "no."

Those were the same vote tallies for Bisesi's amendment capping the number of dispensaries, and for the early first-reading vote Feb. 22.

City officials say they've received more and more requests in recent months from prospective operators of dispensaries. Any application would have to come before the planning and zoning commission for a public hearing, and then the city council would have final say on approval of a special use permit.

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  Space is available in the shopping center on the south side of Golf Road just west of Algonquin Road in Rolling Meadows. A recreational marijuana dispensary could take a space in the future. Paul Valade/
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