St. Charles aldermen vote to eliminate pot sales zoning discrepancy

ST. CHARLES – At Monday's St. Charles City Council meeting, aldermen voted 8-1 to eliminate a discrepancy that would prevent recreational marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop in the city.

Voting "no" was 5th Ward Alderman Maureen Lewis. The majority of aldermen voted to approve a general amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance to remove the reference to state and federal law conformance from the special use findings of fact.

During the Oct. 21 St. Charles City Council meeting, aldermen voted 6-3 to allow recreational dispensaries as a special use. Voting "no" were Lewis, 1st Ward Alderman Ronald Silkaitis and 2nd Ward Alderman Rita Anne Payleitner.

"During review of the application, a discrepancy was identified with the findings of fact for special use listed in the city’s zoning ordinance," Community Development Division Manager Russell Colby said in a memo to aldermen. "In order to approve a special use, the city must determine the application for special use meets all six findings of fact contained in the zoning ordinance. One of the findings is the special use conforms to local, state and federal law. Because sale of cannabis is currently illegal under federal law, the city could not make that finding in the affirmative."

Colby said state statute does not require that a municipality consider conformance with state and federal law as part of the findings of fact for special use.

"Staff reviewed the codes of other area municipalities and found that our code appears to be unique in referencing federal and state law within the special use findings of fact," he said. "Of the municipalities surveyed, only St. Charles and Batavia list conformance with state and federal law. It is more common to require conformance with local laws."

Beginning Jan. 1, the law will allow Illinois residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana per Illinois resident. Residents also will be able to possess 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of THC – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation – contained in a cannabis-infused product. Nonresidents can possess half those amounts.

Registered medical marijuana patients will be allowed to grow up to five cannabis plants in their home and possess more than 30 grams of cannabis if it is grown and secured in their residence under certain conditions.

The majority of aldermen approved rules allowing recreational dispensaries in the community business and regional business zoning districts, meaning they would be located away from the city's downtown. In addition, they would have to be located at least 250 feet away from a school, day care facility, church or residential uses.

Two dispensaries could be located in the city – one on the east side and one on the west side of the Fox River. In addition, one of the dispensaries must have a minimum of one year's experience operating a medical marijuana dispensary in St. Charles. The second dispensary must have a minimum of one year's experience operating a medical marijuana dispensary within the state of Illinois, but not necessarily in St. Charles.

Zen Leaf, a medical marijuana dispensary, currently operates at 3714 Illinois Ave. in St. Charles.

On-premise consumption lounges and all other types of recreational marijuana uses would not be permitted.