Residents oppose recreational pot sales in St. Charles; public hearing to continue
St. Charles residents speak out against allowing shops
After hearing from several opponents of recreational marijuana sales Tuesday, members of a St. Charles advisory panel said they need more time and information before recommending whether it should be allowed.
Dozens of people attended a public hearing on a proposed zoning change that would permit up to two recreational cannabis dispensaries in town when a new state law takes effect Jan. 1.
The plan commission heard from many residents who urged city officials to shoot down that measure and instead adopt an ordinance banning retail sales in St. Charles. Some said they fear the potential negative health and safety effects of cannabis, while others expressed concerns over how dispensaries would affect the city's image.
"I believe marijuana shops do not reflect the family (and) community values and image of this town," resident Greg Pacelli said. "It sends the wrong message to our youth. Why make further temptations more easily accessible to our young people?"
The city held two community discussions on the topic last month, during which several residents and representatives of a medical marijuana dispensary spoke in favor of allowing recreational sales.
At the end of that second August meeting, the government operations committee voted 6-3 to direct city staff members to start drafting the zoning amendment. The motion made by Alderman Lora Vitek included several restrictions: allowing no more than two dispensaries, one on either side of the Fox River; limiting the operations to the community business and regional business zoning districts; requiring businesses to have operated a medical marijuana facility for at least two years; and prohibiting on-site consumption.
Members of the plan commission are now tasked with forming a recommendation on whether that special zoning use, and the proposed limitations, would be appropriate in the city.
Their suggestions would then be considered by the planning and development committee, with the city council making the final decision.
The city council voted 6-4 this week to implement a maximum 3% municipal cannabis retailers' occupation tax, should aldermen eventually approve marijuana sales. That would tack onto an existing 2% local sales tax, meaning St. Charles would collect 5% of gross recreational marijuana sales.
But several residents said Tuesday they do not believe the additional tax revenue would be worth the negative effects of allowing the retail sale of what they consider to be a gateway drug.
"Those in favor are looking more at increasing city revenue than honoring the wishes of most St. Charles residents," resident Jessica Schuessler said. "St. Charles has the responsibility to stand against being another city that sells drugs recreationally."
Plan commissioners said they were not yet ready to move forward with a recommendation. They requested more information on how they could separate a dispensary from recreational areas and other "sensitive" land uses, such as schools or day cares. Chairman Todd Wallace also asked to see examples of ordinances that have been passed in other towns.
The public hearing is expected to continue at 7 p.m. Oct. 8.