Crystal Lake is one step closer to getting a marijuana dispensary after the City Council unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday evening for one in the former Culver’s.
Petitioners want to put the dispensary, AmeriCanna Dream, on the 1.6-acre property at 501 Pingree Road. The Culver’s at that location closed but moved a short distance away a few years ago.
About $1 million in investments are planned for the property, since it has been vacant for a while, said Tara Meyer, a representative with AmeriCanna Dream, the company planning to open the dispensary. She said she expected $500,000 in city sales tax would be generated from the business.
The Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to give a positive recommendation for the dispensary, although it gave a negative recommendation to make the city’s dispensary buffer from a religious establishment be reduced to 350 feet from 500. However, the City Council granted the variation.
Under Crystal Lake’s ordinance, marijuana dispensaries are not allowed to be within 500 feet of any schools, day care centers, residential care homes, religious establishments, parks, open spaces, libraries or recovery homes. They also cannot locate within 250 feet of residential property.
The buffer measures from the Harvest Bible Chapel’s property line to the proposed dispensary, according to city documents.
Harvest Bible Chapel is set back 260 feet from the property line, which is why the variation is needed, Community Development Director Katie Cowlin said. Typically, buildings in a manufacturing district like the church have a 30 foot setback. Had that been the case, the dispensary would be more than 600 feet away from the hypothetical property line, Cowlin said. Because it is not, the variation is needed.
“I would be willing to grant the variation because I think there’s plenty of space between the dispensary and the church building itself,” council member Ian Philpot said.
Council member Cameron Hubbard agreed, saying the setback is far enough from the church to where the city doesn’t need to be concerned about it.
“If we’re measuring from the property line, Coventry Plaza borders a school and there’s a 7/11 there that sells alcohol,” he pointed out.
A few people made public comments against placing the dispensary in the former Culver’s because of its proximity to Rosecrance in Crystal Lake, a mental health and substance abuse treatment center at 422 Tracy Court.
“Hundreds each year are coming to our Crystal Lake office less than 1,000 feet away from the proposed dispensary to receive critical life-saving care for addiction,” said Melissa Loesch, director for Rosecrance McHenry County. “I humbly ask you to imagine being in the greatest struggle in your life – trying to save your relationships, your job and your right to your children and quite literally your whole life. As you face the daily struggle, you come to your safe space for treatment and you park within yards of a cannabis dispensary, a reminder, a trigger.”
Even a reminder of past use can trigger incredible cravings, anxiety and dread, which can lead to relapse, Loesch said.
However, council member Cathy Ferguson, who has a background as a family therapist and working with those dealing with substance abuse, argued that for many who deal with addiction, anything from a song to a place to a feeling can be a trigger.
“While I appreciate the building may be a trigger, we all know if you walk into Jewel or Walmart or Walgreen’s, that there’s alcohol there,” Ferguson said. “The name Walgreen’s for somebody may be a trigger, but we don’t limit that.”
There is no buffer in Crystal Lake’s ordinance dictating how far dispensaries have to be from treatment or medical centers like Rosecrance.
After marijuana was first legalized by the state of Illinois, municipalities were given the choice on whether to allow dispensaries within their own limits, which Crystal Lake ultimately did.
But City Council members largely agreed during Tuesday’s meeting that the original buffer provisions they made in the ordinance allowing marijuana dispensaries may have been too conservative because of the novelty of marijuana being legal when it was first passed and people’s nervousness about it.
“I have always believed our ordinance was way too broad,” council member Ellen Brady said. “In order to even get cannabis in the door, sometimes you had to make concessions to go along with what other people felt.”
She suggested revisiting these buffers at a future meeting.