DeKALB – DeKalb is taking steps to allow for marijuana dispensaries to be located in more places throughout the city, a move city staff said could entice more business to the community.
The measure was at the center of a vote this week by the DeKalb Planning and Zoning Commission, which deliberated over whether to support a proposal to remove the 250-foot setback from residential spaces required for medical or adult use recreational marijuana dispensaries.
The plan also would allow those seeking a special-use permit to operate a dispensary to do so in more areas around DeKalb, including the city’s downtown business district or along Sycamore Road, according to city documents.
The commission voted, 6-1, Monday to approve the proposal. Commissioner Bill McMahon was the lone “no” vote. The proposal will now head to the DeKalb City Council for approval, although no dispensaries will be able to open in DeKalb until a state permit is issued.
McMahon acknowledged he likely was in the minority as opposition. “I just don’t think I want this in our downtown,” he said.
There are no dispensaries in DeKalb, although some have sought – and won – over the years to get city approval before vying for state support, which hasn’t yet been awarded through a lottery system.
City officials confirmed a proposed dispensary in the Junction Shopping Center on Lincoln Highway is still pursuing state licensure. According to city documents, NuMed Partners LLC, an Illinois-based medical and recreational marijuana dispensary with shops in Chicago, East Peoria and Urbana, has until July 1 to obtain a state dispensary license to operate at 818 W. Lincoln Highway. Aromah’s Hookah Bar across the highway allows for adults to use marijuana in the lounge.
DeKalb City Planner Dan Olson said the latest city proposal will expand where marijuana dispensaries can be located “while still protecting the public health and safety and welfare.” He said removing the setback requirement won’t apply to schools, which still would require a 250-foot buffer.
Olson said stringent regulations for the facilities already exist at the state level, including restrictions on hours of operation, security measures and signage.
“So we already have some really good standards in effect to keep people safe,” Olson said.
Dispensary owners would still need to seek City Council approval while applying for a state permit also, which includes a DeKalb public hearing and neighbor notification.
Commissioners offered little feedback on the proposal this week.
“It’s pretty straightforward,” Commissioner Trixy O’Flaherty said.
DeKalb County is part of an eight-county area designated by the state as eligible for a handful of dispensaries. DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said he believes the county has a good chance of being award a state permit for a local location, since the designated region doesn’t include Boone or Winnebago counties.
“We’re hoping to get one or two,” Nicklas said Monday. “I don’t know if we’ll get three.”
Commission Chairman Max Maxwell said he recalled being impressed with state regulations for security measures in dispensaries while considering the Junction Shopping Center proposal.
“Opinions will vary for sure,” Maxwell said. “But … I personally don’t believe it would be any different than having a liquor store in [our] downtown.”