Prospect Heights panel recommends pot shop on Rand Road

  • A rendering of the Zen Leaf recreational marijuana dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights.

    A rendering of the Zen Leaf recreational marijuana dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights. Courtesy of city of Prospect Heights

  • A rendering of the interior of the Zen Leaf recreational marijuana dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights.

    A rendering of the interior of the Zen Leaf recreational marijuana dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights. Courtesy of city of Prospect Heights

 
 
Posted6/26/2020 5:20 AM

Members of Prospect Heights' planning and zoning board of appeals Thursday voted 6-1 to recommend the city council approve a proposed recreational marijuana dispensary near the intersection of Rand Road and Thomas Street.

In casting her dissenting vote, Commissioner Janet Saewert said that while she accepted that the proposal for Zen Leaf at Prospect Heights at 1434 N. Rand Road adhered to all city codes and regulations, she agreed with many members of the public who'd criticized the site's proximity to both Hersey High School to the east and Thomas Middle School to the west.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The city council will consider a first reading of the proposed dispensary's special use permit on July 13, with the second and final reading likely to occur on July 27.

City staff members and some other members of the planning and zoning board made it clear that the proposal did meet all the standards and regulations adopted in 2019 to become Prospect Heights' one permitted recreational marijuana dispensary. Those including its distance from the two schools in the area.

Chairman Danielle Dash opened the hearing by stating that its purpose was to establish whether the proposed business met the city's conditions for a permit, and not to debate either the adult use of marijuana or state or local laws on such use.

But for more than two hours much of the discussion during the hearing held on Zoom consisted of criticisms of the location and the danger of marijuana to passing schoolchildren, with many of the speakers being residents of nearby Arlington Heights.

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Anthony Marsico, vice president of retail for Zen Leaf, spoke of the security and vigilance that are part of his company's existing locations and explained that there are not as many appropriate sites in Prospect Heights as critics of the selected one seemed to think.

He added that much of Prospect Heights is residential, and that choosing a site in a shared strip mall rather than the free-standing former First Midwest Bank building would raise other types of issues.

The majority of the zoning board agreed.

"Seeing vacant retail is never a good thing," Dash said.

Disagreeing with public comments that the dispensary would be more attractive to teens than at a more obscure location, Commissioner Nilax Patel argued that its visibility would deter illegal behavior.

Marsico said the planned business would employ 30 to 40 people and generate an estimated $720,000 in annual sales tax for the city.

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