Naperville recreational pot discussions begin tonight with livestreamed workshop

  • Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico listens last year during the public participation portion of a City Council meeting in Naperville focused on recreational cannabis use.

    Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico listens last year during the public participation portion of a City Council meeting in Naperville focused on recreational cannabis use. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted6/22/2020 5:30 AM

Naperville's planning and zoning commission soon will talk about a topic once so hot it attracted more than 400 speakers during public meetings last summer: recreational cannabis stores.

Zoning regulations for new businesses made legal by the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act are headed for the commission later this year. But first, the city council plans to lay the groundwork during a virtual workshop that will guide staff members in creating a draft of possible zoning provisions.

 

The workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday via Zoom. It will be livestreamed at https://naperville.legistar.com and shown on TV by WCNC. It is the first step toward potential reversal of a ban issued in September on the sales of recreational cannabis in Naperville.

Council members plan to use zoning rules for medical marijuana as a framework and then decide whether to keep each of the regulations the same, loosen them or make them more restrictive.

Regulations so far say marijuana dispensaries are permitted in industrial districts or allowed as a conditional use in commercial areas and health services districts, while cultivation centers are allowed only as a conditional use in industrial districts.

Rules set so far also say dispensaries must not be located within 250 feet of residential property or 1,000 feet of a school or day care; they cannot have drive-through lanes; and their retail sales area must be limited to 10% of the total square footage.

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The council also plans to discuss whether the city should allow other types of marijuana-related businesses authorized under state law and, if so, whether should be any caps on the number of each type. These businesses include what the state calls craft growers, processing organizations, transporting organizations, infuser organizations and on-site consumption establishments.

Opinions have swirled around all sides of recreational marijuana since last spring, when the state authorized sales to begin Jan. 1 and gave municipalities the ability through their zoning codes to prevent shops from opening within their boundaries. The debate in Naperville has not quieted since the results of a March 17 referendum question, in which 53.25% of 28,968 voters said the city should allow recreational marijuana stores in town.

The city received 1,010 responses to a survey about zoning options that was conducted online between June 3 and June 15.

The survey was deadlocked on one question -- whether to cap the number of retail stores selling recreational marijuana -- with 49.55% saying yes and 50.45% saying no. It showed the lowest support for allowing on-site consumption establishments, at 44.7%, and the highest support for permitting craft growers, at 57.7%.

But City Manager Doug Krieger cautioned the survey was not restricted to Naperville residents and was not designed to gather a statistically significant sample.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

People who emailed comments suggested points such as making sure not to concentrate marijuana stores in one part of town, regulating the potency of products sold, helping small businesses get into the industry and using tax revenues to help recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city has authorized a local tax of 3% on recreational marijuana sales, and has not yet issued an estimate of how much tax revenue it could receive.

After Monday's meeting, city staff members plan to draft an amendment to the city code about adult-use cannabis zoning. The planning and zoning commission then will consider the amendment during a public hearing.

Once the commission makes a recommendation on a proposed ordinance, the city council will discuss it during a first reading. A vote would be scheduled for a separate meeting after the first reading.

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