Elgin OKs medical pot dispensary, despite opposition

  • Salveo Health & Wellness CEO Alex R. Thiersch makes his case for a medical marijuana dispensary to the Elgin City Council.

      Salveo Health & Wellness CEO Alex R. Thiersch makes his case for a medical marijuana dispensary to the Elgin City Council. ELENA FERRARIN | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/9/2014 9:34 AM

After a two-month process, a medical marijuana dispensary gained approval to open in Elgin, a decision that opponents say paves the way for a lawsuit against the city.

The Elgin City Council voted 6-3 to grant a permit to Salveo Health & Wellness of Chicago to open the dispensary at unit 215 of 1330 Crispin Drive in the Fox Bluff Corporate Center. Salveo is vying for one of two dispensary state licenses in Kane County.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Councilmen Toby Shaw and Rich Dunne, along with Mayor David Kaptain, voted against the permit. Kaptain said he didn't have enough time to read the 500-page transcript from Monday night's six-hour planning and zoning commission meeting on the issue.

"Safety is not the issue for me. The issue for me here is the due process that goes with it," he said. "My conscience won't let me do it tonight."

Shaw said the city was going out of its way to approve one particular business.

Attorney Charles Muscarello, who represents the other owners in the Fox Bluff center, said he will challenge the city's decision because it doesn't comply with the city's municipal code or state law.

Muscarello's clients oppose the dispensary at that location, arguing it will increase crime and traffic.

The commission recommended denial in a 3-1 vote Monday night, but the council has ultimate say.

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Dispensaries in Elgin must be at least 1,000 feet from residential areas.

The commission recommended the distance should be measured from property line to property line.

The city council, however, decided that for multiunit commercial properties, the distance should be measured from the units themselves. That allows the dispensary to meet the minimum distance.

"I didn't envision this as being so restrictive with multi-occupant buildings that it was going to essentially zone them out of Elgin," Councilman John Steffen said.

Muscarello said the decision "would not stand up to legal scrutiny."

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger pointed out there are no setback requirements for pharmacies, which sell drugs that are much more addictive than medical marijuana.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley said that in at least one instance affecting a packaged liquor store in Elgin, the required distance from a church was measured from the structure, not the property line.

Councilman Rich Dunne, who cast the only dissenting vote on the distance requirement, pointed out federal law prohibits the sale of marijuana.

Muscarello also questioned why Salveo changed into an LLC and added several minority owners in August.

Salveo CEO Alex R. Thiersch said he did so at the advice of his corporate attorney. Thiersch and his principal partner continue to have the only controlling interest in the company.

The city council, after preliminarily approving Salveo's application, had decided Sept. 10 to send it back to the commission. Fox Bluff business owners argued commissioners denied them due process at an Aug. 4 public hearing.

Thiersch called it "a very humbling and sometimes difficult and stressful process."

Medical marijuana operations that might want to set up shop in the future in Elgin should "have these conversations ahead of time with their neighbors," Councilwoman Tish Powell said.

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