Naperville passes zoning rules allowing recreational pot sales

  • Naperville officials have approved a set of zoning regulations allowing recreational marijuana sales in the city's boundaries. (Mark Busch/Northwest Herald via AP)

    Naperville officials have approved a set of zoning regulations allowing recreational marijuana sales in the city's boundaries. (Mark Busch/Northwest Herald via AP)

 
 
Updated 8/19/2020 1:41 PM

A set of zoning regulations allowing up to three marijuana dispensaries within Naperville's boundaries has been given the green light, reversing the city's previous ban on recreational pot sales.

The city council voted 6-3 Tuesday to approve an ordinance permitting cannabis shops in certain zoning districts, with distance requirements of at least one mile from any existing dispensary, 1,000 feet from a school and 250 feet from a residential property.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The very in-depth deliberation we've been through and the amount of shaving and forming of this ordinance we have made on virtually every category has been thoughtful and considerate of both sides of this vote," Mayor Steve Chirico said. "I think we've gotten to a place where we've got a solid ordinance."

The marijuana issue has been a hot topic in Naperville, with early debates last summer drawing hundreds of speakers both for and against recreational sales. Council members voted in September to opt out when a new state law took effect Jan. 1, but they later decided to revisit the topic after giving residents a chance to weigh in.

This past March, 53.25% of 28,968 voters supported an advisory referendum question asking whether adult-use pot sales should be allowed in town. Councilwoman Judith Brodhead said Tuesday she sees those results as "something that absolutely we should be using to guide us in our decision-making."

The approved ordinance permits recreational and medical dispensaries by right in the community shopping center and general commercial business districts, as well as areas zoned for health services, offices, research and development, and industrial uses.

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Parking requirements and other provisions also are included in the measure, which Brodhead said negates "unfounded fears" that the shops would occupy the downtown or pop up all over the city.

Overriding the city's ban on pot sales to follow the will of the voters is a "big concession" for Councilman Kevin Coyne, who said he has been opposed to allowing marijuana businesses at all. He suggested requiring dispensaries go through city review to receive a conditional use permit, a process he said would offer additional transparency and opportunity for public engagement.

"I don't think the mandate that is on the dais is reflective of where the community is as a whole," Coyne said. "The referendum barely passed. There's clearly thousands of our residents very deeply upset about the prospect of these coming to town. And to allow these by right without them afforded the ability to come voice their concerns ... is somewhat offensive."

After his motion failed to receive support, Coyne voted against the ordinance allowing dispensaries as a permitted use. The other dissenting votes were cast by council members Paul Hinterlong and Patty Gustin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The city earlier this year authorized a local tax of 3% on recreational marijuana sales. Councilman John Krummen on Tuesday suggested a portion of that revenue be designated for mental health resources.

Cultivation centers, craft growers, processing organizations, on-site consumption establishments, transporting organizations and infuser organizations remain prohibited under the city's new ordinance.

Chirico recommended the council reconsider at a later date whether to allow some of those ancillary businesses, particularly testing or infusing facilities and transportation companies, which he says have "very little downside to it and a lot of potential good economic benefit."

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