Lombard says 'yes' to marijuana stores in several zoning districts

Recreational marijuana stores could find a home in Lombard under zoning regulations the village board approved Thursday.

A 12-part update to the village's zoning code will allow such businesses to locate by right on Roosevelt Road and in districts designated for offices or industrial use.

This means recreational marijuana shops, made legal under the state's Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act beginning Jan. 1, can open in these areas without receiving case-by-case approval from the village, as long as they follow all applicable zoning regulations.

In the downtown, downtown perimeter and Butterfield Road commercial districts, as well as in areas designated as neighborhood or community shopping districts, recreational marijuana stores could open as well, but only with the village board's approval of a conditional use permit. Approval can come only after notice to the public and a public hearing conducted by the plan commission.

Lombard Village Manager Scott Niehaus said the village board's decision to set these zoning standards can give direction to the handful of prospective operators that so far have reached out to the village about store locations.

Village President Keith Giagnorio said he can envision one, maybe two, shops selling marijuana for use by adults 21 and older will find a home in Lombard. But he has tried to quell some public concern that setting zoning parameters - instead of banning recreational marijuana shops in town - means the Lilac Village soon will see "a dozen of these on every corner."

"It just doesn't work that way," he said. "The licenses are limited. The companies have really stringent regulations they have to follow.

Licensing for recreational marijuana stores, called dispensaries in the law, will be handled by the state. By May 1, the state will issue up to 47 licenses for stores in the Chicago area, with existing medical cannabis dispensaries getting the first crack at receiving early-approval licenses. By December 2021, up to 110 licenses will be available.

"It's a pretty detailed and really regulated process," Giagnorio said. "So we'll just see what happens."

Niehaus said the state also specifies that no marijuana store can be within 1,500 feet of another, no matter whether it sells to medical or recreational customers and no matter where municipal boundaries fall. That regulation, he said, should prevent these businesses from "clustering" in one area.

Lombard trustees approved the village's new zoning rules by a 5-0 vote. District 5 Trustee Dan Militello abstained to avoid the appearance of impropriety because he works in the cannabis industry.

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