I’m writing in regard to the Nov. 26 editorial [Limiting pot sales, Our Views, Nov. 27] calling for another look at zoning for adult-use cannabis dispensaries. As the guy who was pleading for “permitted-use” zoning at the Sept. 16 board meeting, let me explain where we’re coming from and what options the village can take to address concerns while keeping the “permitted-use” designation in place.
A few mechanisms define where cannabis businesses can be allowed once a municipality has approved adult-use cannabis sales. At the state level, no dispensaries can be located within 1,500 feet of each other. This measurement is bird’s-eye-view, not turn by turn. The result of this rule means that Seven Point dispensary, located near Chipotle on Lake Street, takes out a large swath of the entire downtown area. The vacancies on Lake from Harlem to the post office and on Marion Street? All are off-limits.
Locally, municipalities have a few levers of their own. We’re seeing setbacks as the primary tool being used by municipalities to address concerns like those reported along North Avenue. Setbacks define how far away structures need to be from roads, schools, rivers and lakes, etc. As I understand it, there are currently no setbacks defined for adult-use cannabis dispensaries in Oak Park, just like there are no setbacks for medicinal dispensaries (there used to be but they were dropped in August 2018). Chicago Tribune coverage stated there is a 1,000-foot setback rule for all municipalities. That is flat wrong. A lot of statewide reporting has been factually incorrect when it comes to the approved bill.
As longtime members of our community, with four kids of our own, we want nothing more than to do right by Oak Park. At the same time, as responsible business owners we want to account for typical regulations if we can, even if they haven’t yet been codified. As such, and as we look for potential locations for our business, we have been sticking with a 500-foot setback from all public/private schools, and from daycares, just like Chicago decided, but not as liberal as Berwyn which recently settled on 250 feet.
These two rules, 1,500 feet away from another dispensary, and 500 feet away from schools and daycares, leaves very few desirable options within the approved, commercially zoned parts of town because Oak Park is dotted with schools and daycares. Today there are two vacancies on North Avenue, but only one of them could work because the other is too close to Peekaboo Playroom.
Permitted-use versus special-use is not the comparison to be made because both designations can apply the same setback rules. What permitted-use affords boutique dispensaries like ours, which will be competing against flush-with-cash, multistate operators, is far less cost and a much quicker speed to market, which isn’t something to write off when multiple months of tax revenue are lost.
Speaking of taxes, there sure is a lot of heated conversation out there regarding TIFs, budgets and the difficult decisions being made to approve or deny funds for specific programs. As I’ve mentioned to a couple of trustees, bring us your programs! We are planning on donating 2-3 percent of our net profits to local philanthropic organizations, or specific programs in need. I’m looking at you Farmers Market!
Lastly, we welcome all questions, comments and suggestions from our fellow Oak Park residents. Feel free to drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Bobek, an Oak Park resident, is co-founder & CEO of Providence Dispensaries.