How St. Charles aldermen are addressing a pot sales zoning discrepancy
A majority of St. Charles aldermen support eliminating a discrepancy in the zoning code that raises questions about the validity of allowing recreational marijuana retailers in town.
The amendment would remove a stipulation requiring all special use applicants to conform to state and federal law. Instead, the findings of fact -- used to determine whether a special zoning use should be granted -- would reference only compliance with the municipal code, as is customary in most nearby towns, said Russell Colby, community development division manager.
The proposed change stems from a plan commission discussion last month surrounding recreational marijuana sales. Though the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act legalizes possession and consumption for Illinois residents 21 and older starting Jan. 1, adult use and sales are still considered federal offenses.
The city council recently approved a set of regulations for allowing up to two recreational marijuana dispensaries. But the city's special use procedure currently requires compliance with both state and federal law, which commission Chairman Todd Wallace took to mean that St. Charles could not approve any shop's application to begin operating.
Aldermen acting as the planning and development committee Monday voted 7-2 to eliminate that reference from the findings of fact. The measure will now go to the city council for consideration.
"There's no reason for us to be more restrictive on ourselves than anyone else," Alderman Todd Bancroft said. "If somebody does present something and it violates federal law, we don't have to allow it. It's not an acquiescence."
The stipulation is not mandated by state statute and staff members say they are unsure why it was added to the city code in 2006, as they "cannot ensure compliance with all federal or state law as part of a special use review." In a survey of 17 municipalities, Colby said, the only other town to include such a provision was Batavia.
Alderman Ron Silkaitis said he's not comfortable facilitating the approval of a special use that conflicts with federal law. He and Alderman Art Lemke voted against the measure.
"I'm confused and I don't agree with it whatsoever," Silkaitis said, noting "there must have been a reason" it was added to the city code.
Mayor Ray Rogina said the proposed change doesn't mean the city wouldn't take the law into consideration at all levels. He pointed to a difference in opinions regarding the legality of selling cannabis, including the argument that states have the right to "do what they please" within their own boundaries.
"I take exception to the (comment) that eliminating this language in the findings of fact means this city council is ready to break a federal or state law," Rogina said.
Stellato said the amendment would align with the city's zoning process, which allows officials to weigh in on whether marijuana sales or any other special uses are appropriate for a certain area.
"I think (other towns) are doing it the same way I'd like to do it," he said, "which is (saying) we have control, and no one else."