Craft cannabis growing facility gets green light from Rolling Meadows council

Rolling Meadows is set to get its first craft cannabis growing facility, just blocks from the lone retail dispensary in town.

Aldermen voted 4-2 Tuesday night to grant a special use and other zoning relief that will allow 11th Level Inc. to open its marijuana cultivation business inside a 66,674-square-foot manufacturing building at 1125 Carnegie St.

Located just west of Route 53 on the north side of Rolling Meadows, the facility is less than a mile from Nature's Care, the dispensary on Rohlwing Road that added recreational sales in 2020.

But representatives of 11th Level say customers won't be able to buy their products at the source; they'll have to go to a store in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood instead.

"This will be a highly secure, highly professional industrial manufacturing facility," said Akele Parnell, the company's CEO told the city council Tuesday. "It won't increase the presence of any sort of cannabis products in the city of Rolling Meadows available for consumers. We're not a consumer-facing business. It'll be very minimal traffic."

The company, which was awarded a coveted state license as a craft grower, plans to use the northern half of the building for its marijuana growing operation, while preserving the southern half for future expansion.

A building plan shows a mothers and clones room, where pieces are cut from main plants; a veg room, where small plants become bigger; and four flower rooms. The expansion plans call for eight more flower rooms and another veg room.

The council's ordinance vote Tuesday night - which required four votes to pass - comes about a month after the aldermen narrowly approved the expansion of city zoning boundaries to allow a single recreational marijuana dispensary in the commercial district on the south side of town.

That recent 4-3 vote was on the minds of the two aldermen who were also the "no" votes to 11th Level's application Tuesday.

"I'm personally in favor of it, but based on the numerous residents that reached out during our previous topic that was just before this, it was made clear to me that they're not interested in any additional type of cannabis businesses within the city," said Alderman Kevin O'Brien.

Alderman Nick Budmats, whose north side Ward 2 includes both the planned craft grower and the existing pot shop, said he doesn't see the long-term benefit of promoting the use of marijuana.

"I respect the right of people to have a business in the city. I recognize that growing marijuana is a business and it's going to bring tax dollars to our city," Budmats said. "But I babysat my grandchildren today, and I really don't want my grandkids to say, 'Hey, is that where the first place that I got whacked or strung out on drugs, is that where it came from or was grown?' It provides me with no joy knowing that we're contributing to that so that we can save a few tax dollars for our citizens."

But company officials said the proposed use will be secure and will drive economic activity in the area. Twelve to 15 employees are expected to work there.

The company's plans include landscaping, circulation and drainage site improvements, but no facade changes or external business signage other than the company name on the door.

The business' security plan includes perimeter barriers, an intrusion detection system monitored 24/7, video surveillance and card readers for all entry points, in addition to on-site guards.

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