Smaller buffer zones, more marijuana dispensaries under consideration in Crystal Lake

Planning and zoning commission will discuss changes that would still have to go through the City Council

CRYSTAL LAKE — Crystal Lake’s Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss whether to allow more than two cannabis dispensaries within city limits at a meeting set for next week, where commissioners also will consider reducing the buffer between marijuana businesses and places like schools, day cares and parks.

As is, Crystal Lake requires a 500-foot buffer between cannabis dispensaries, cultivation centers, craft growers, infusers/processors, transporters and places it considers “sensitive uses,” such as schools, child care facilities, religious establishments, parks, open spaces, libraries and recovery homes. Additionally, city code states that no more than two cannabis dispensaries are allowed to be in Crystal Lake at one time.

However, the changes the Planning and Zoning Commission are voting on next Wednesday would make this buffer 250 feet and remove the ordinance line that restricts the number of dispensaries.

While the commission can either give a positive or negative recommendation to these changes, the City Council gets the final say.

Crystal Lake’s City Council adopted the ordinance allowing marijuana dispensaries on Oct. 1, 2019. Since then, the city has approved ordinances allowing multiple kinds of cannabis businesses within city limits.

Last month, the council approved Crystal Lake’s first marijuana dispensary. (It would be the second one for McHenry County.)

Developers plan to put the dispensary – AmeriCanna Dream – on a vacant 1.6-acre property at 501 Pingree Road. A building that was once a Culver’s restaurant is on the site.

Because the former Culver’s building has been empty for a while, representatives for the dispensary expect to invest $1 million in it. An estimate by developers anticipates $500,000 in city sales tax being generated from the business.

Although the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to give a positive recommendation for the dispensary, it gave a negative recommendation for reducing from 500 feet to 350 feet the city’s dispensary buffer from a religious establishment. However, the City Council granted the variation.

At the meeting where the dispensary was approved, Crystal Lake City Council members largely agreed that the original buffer provisions they made in the ordinance initially allowing dispensaries may have been too conservative. These stricter requirements were because of what the City Council said was the perception at the time: the novelty of marijuana being legal in Illinois, as the law legalizing it had recently been passed, and people’s nervousness about it.

The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.