Pot shop plan moving forward in Des Plaines despite opposition

Despite opposition from some residents and two city council members, a plan to open a cannabis dispensary in downtown Des Plaines is moving forward.

The council on Monday tentatively approved a conditional use permit for the business, which has been proposed for vacant space at 1504 Miner St. within the Metropolitan Square plaza. The building last was home to a Leona's restaurant, which closed in 2017.

Final approval could come at the council's Dec. 20 meeting.

An operation called Dispensary 33, which already has two shops in Chicago, wants to open in Des Plaines. The store would cater to recreational users, city documents indicate.

Four Des Plaines residents spoke against the plan during a lengthy discussion Monday.

The first opposed the idea of a pot shop in town, raising concerns about crime and traffic crashes resulting from cannabis use. In response, Police Chief David Anderson said Des Plaines hasn't experienced an increase in crime, crashes or arrests of intoxicated drivers since cannabis stores started opening in the area.

Other speakers - including a woman who said she formerly worked in a dispensary - said they like the idea of a cannabis shop in town but oppose a downtown location.

When it came time for discussion among the council members, 5th Ward Alderman Carla Brookman strongly opposed the plan. She said the site is better suited for a restaurant, especially because the city's comprehensive plan calls for what she labeled a "restaurant cluster" in that area.

She also pointed to the building's former use as a restaurant to make her point.

"The basic infrastructure is still in place and usable," she said.

Dispensary 33 should find a spot in town that's "more appropriate" for such a business, Brookman added.

In contrast, 3rd Ward Alderman Sean Oskerka supported Dispensary 33's proposal and said he fears a cycle of failing restaurants at the site. First Ward Alderman Mark Lysakowski, whose ward includes the site, and Alderman Colt Moylan of the 2nd Ward also backed the plan.

So did Mayor Andrew Goczkowski, who said the shop could be "another magnet in our community that will bring folks in."

After a bit more discussion, the council voted 6-2 to grant the conditional permit. Brookman and 7th Ward Alderman Patsy Smith cast the "no" votes.

Des Plaines is set to collect 4% tax on recreational cannabis sales in the city. That could amount to between $200,000 and $250,000 annually at Dispensary 33, city documents indicate.

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