Elgin approves first cannabis dispensary, despite concerns of neighboring businesses

Elgin will finally have its first cannabis dispensary, despite protestations from some nearby businesses and residents concerned about traffic and parking.

More than three years after the city approved adult-use cannabis retail stores, High Haven Dispensary will open a 3,200-square-foot location at 353-355 S. Randall Road. The shopping center also is home to a Dunkin', Top Shelf Sports Cards, a Kumon tutoring center and Team Rehabilitation physical therapy.

"Taking everything into consideration for the entire scope of the community, this is something that we've been waiting for a very long time," city council member Dustin Good said while acknowledging some people weren't going to be happy about it.

The Elgin City Council voted 5-2 Wednesday in favor of the conditional use application, which was required because a dispensary wasn't initially an approved use in that Planned Area Business district. It also required a departure from parking requirements.

The lack of parking was a major concern for Chris Keller, owner of Top Shelf Sports Cards.

"This is not a referendum on marijuana," he said. "This is about common sense and conditional use permits asking for an exception."

Keller said there isn't adequate parking to accommodate a dispensary and that the only parking study done was by the petitioner in the first week of February, when most businesses are traditionally slow.

"Please, rethink this. This is not a rubber-stamp moment," he said before the vote.

Mahja Sulemanjee-Bortocek, CEO of the female-led, minority-owned, social equity cannabis company, believes the site will work for both High Haven and its neighbors.

"We looked into many locations," she said. "There just aren't a lot available, and that is one of the reasons this is the first petition you're seeing in Elgin for a dispensary."

She said the company expects to spend roughly $700,000 to do interior work and secure the space.

"We don't want to have to relocate our premises, so we've done a lot of homework on this," said Sulemanjee-Bortocek, who said she's helped set up 25 dispensaries across the country.

The shopping center has 54 spaces, including 16 in the back. There also are concerns about ingress and egress into the shopping center, which is made via a private drive close to the Randall Road/South Street intersection.

It was enough for Mayor David Kaptain to vote "no."

"I think there are too many issues here with this site," Kaptain said. "I don't have any problem with marijuana. That's the law. But I think this location is not acceptable."

Other concerns about lines forming outside and affecting other businesses were unwarranted, Sulemanjee-Bortocek said.

Competition from nearby dispensaries in St. Charles, Carpentersville, Algonquin and Hoffman Estates means a new retail store won't draw the scores of people the way it would have several years ago.

"The number of people we're going to see in Elgin, I hate to tell you, I wish it was more," she said. "It's not going to be what people think it is. The time has passed for that."

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