The Elgin City Council unanimously voted for a zoning change Wednesday that opens up a core area of downtown for a potential marijuana dispensary.
On the recommendation of the planning and zoning commission, the council amended a regulation that made a large swath of downtown ineligible for a dispensary because of a number of "pocket parks." The amendment allows for a dispensary to apply for a conditional use when located within 250 feet of a small downtown park that is not intended for children.
Those areas, including Advocate Park at the corner of Spring Street and East Chicago Avenue, will no longer be considered "sensitive land use," a designation that would prohibit a dispensary from opening within 250 feet. The other enhanced downtown areas that will no longer be considered sensitive land uses are at 67 South Grove Ave., the streetscapes at the southwest corner of Chicago Street and Grove Avenue, the area along Dupage Court between Grove Avenue and Spring Street or Riverside Drive. None of the areas feature playground or recreational equipment intended for children. All are less than 3,000 square feet.
Councilman Toby Shaw ultimately called it a simple zoning change, saying "these aren't parks." But he expressed doubt that marijuana was a "golden nugget" for downtown Elgin. "I'm not a huge fan of the cannabis push here in the state of Illinois," he said. "If we think that having cannabis in our downtown is going to save our downtown, I'm concerned that someone is already partaking."
As of the planning and zoning meeting a couple of weeks ago, the city hadn't yet received any actual applications for a dispensary, despite a "number of inquiries," according to Mark Mylott, the city's director of community development.
But Councilwoman Tish Powell said she appreciated the issue being brought before the council to improve the chances to attract new business. "Even though we did a whole lot of due diligence when this initial ordinance was passed, things come up that we don't necessarily expect."