Des Plaines may impose fee on medical pot dispensaries

 
 
Updated 11/18/2014 7:10 PM

Des Plaines may soon join Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village in imposing an annual impact fee on any business that wants to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in town.

Eighth Ward Alderman Mike Charewicz has suggested the city take a closer look at what other towns have done before granting a conditional use permit for Prime Wellness of Illinois, which wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 415 W. Touhy Ave.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The city council voted 5-2 Monday to defer final consideration of the permit until Dec. 1, with Aldermen Mark Walsten and Denise Rodd voting "no." Aldermen agreed unanimously Nov. 3 to granting the permit on an early, first reading vote.

Charewicz said such a fee could allow the city to recoup some costs for extra police service that might result from a medical marijuana seller coming to town.

"You can always vote 'no' on the impact fee -- that's fine -- but I just thought it would give us two weeks to see if there's a direction we'd like to go," Charewicz said.

Walsten said the proposed dispensary has been "vetted out about as far as you can go," in a city review process that began in July.

"To me, this thing's finished. It's done. We've already beat it to death," Walsten said. "I wouldn't be in favor of mixing -- bringing in any forms of revenue discussion in this, what we're looking at now."

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George Sakas, the city's director of community and economic development, said the conditional use permit is strictly a zoning issue, though the council could decide to come back with taxation at a later date.

"You get into a difficult position of making it look like you're assessing a zoning entitlement looking for revenue," Sakas said. "That's tricky legally, and ethically a little tricky as well, because it looks like you're zoning for dollars."

If aldermen do decide to impose an impact fee, Peter Friedman, the city's general counsel, recommended it be part of a stand-alone ordinance that would apply to anyone who operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Des Plaines. The city would likely be "in a better position" if such an ordinance were in place before zoning is granted, he added.

Schaumburg officials are considering an annual $100,000 impact fee to cover costs generated by any medical marijuana dispensary that may locate in the village.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In September, Elk Grove Village approved a requirement that any dispensary locating there pay $5,000 each to the village, Kenneth Young Center, Alexian Brothers Health System, and the police department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. Any medical marijuana cultivation center would have to pay $15,000 each to the three community organizations and $30,000 to the village.

The state is allowing only one dispensary in Elk Grove and Schaumburg townships, so Prime Wellness will have to compete against 11 others seeking to open within those geographic boundaries.

State regulators could approve licenses by the end of the year.

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