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Geneva panel recommends no zoning for marijuana dispensaries, cultivation centers

Geneva residents speak out against zoning for cannabis businesses

Geneva Planning and Zoning Commission members Michael Slifka, Teri DeBates and Bradley Kosirog discuss staff proposals Thursday for zoning cannabis-related businesses in Geneva.
Geneva Planning and Zoning Commission members Michael Slifka, Teri DeBates and Bradley Kosirog discuss staff proposals Thursday for zoning cannabis-related businesses in Geneva.

GENEVA – The Geneva Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend against permitting the zoning of cannabis dispensaries in Geneva, among other zoning amendments, during a three-hour meeting Nov. 14 that included a public hearing.

Dispensaries sell the product as in a retail store.

The commission was following a directive from aldermen at a Sept. 23 Committee of the Whole policy discussion regarding the city’s options for local regulation of cannabis uses.

The state passed a bill to regulate and tax marijuana. The bill goes into effect Jan. 1.

The state is the only agency that can license cannabis businesses, but municipalities and counties can impose their own local zoning regulations.

“It is permitted – unless a village or city opts out,” attorney Ron Sandack said.

Staff was directed to schedule a public hearing and prepare text amendments related to the regulation of cannabis uses for the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider, which it did.

Still, talking about zoning options for legal cannabis businesses – cultivators, processors, infusers, craft growers, transporters – seemed surreal in the face of decades of it being illegal.

“This is a pretty big cultural change,” Commissioner Bradley Kosirog said.

Several members of the public came to testify against allowing any cannabis-related businesses to be permitted in Geneva’s zoning.

Among them was Susan George, of the 200 block of Larsdotter Lane, who spoke out against making the purchase of marijuana “easy and convenient.”

“Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug and it is illegal under federal law,” George said. “Are we going to set the example of defying and disobeying federal law as a community and expect our kids to honor us and honor the law?”

John Stevenson, of the 500 block of Forest View Drive, said he moved back to Geneva after living in Colorado and advocated against allowing dispensaries.

“Geneva has always been cool,” Stevenson said. “We’ve got to keep it that way.”

Mary Lu O’Halloran, of the 1900 block of Heather Road, said, “This is totally against the character and values of our community.”

Julie Pouilly, of the 1600 block of Keim Circle, who is the president of the Geneva Coalition for Youth, said Naperville opted out of providing cannabis zoning.

“I am clearly an opt-out person,” Pouilly said.

Director of Community Development David Degroot led the commission through staff’s zoning proposals.

Staff proposals included defining cannabis-related terms in the city’s zoning ordinance as it removes any ambiguity about whether a certain type of cannabis is permitted.

Even if the City Council decides to opt out of approving zoning for any cannabis-related business, Degroot said requiring a special use for cannabis use establishments allows the city to review and regulate the operation of each individual business.

“The challenge with this is taking what the product is out of the equation and looking at what the use is,” Degroot said. “It’s the sale of a legal product that has been legalized by the state.”

The product, Degroot said, can be cultivated, processed, packaged and transported – similar to the way other food is processed, packaged and shipped in the city’s industrial district.

The commission also recommended including all listed cannabis-related uses in the city’s industrial areas, but not allowing dispensing or cultivation centers.

The commission also recommended to not allow zoning for cannabis-related businesses in the downtown area or in office or commercial districts.

The commission voted to accept staff’s proposals on general zoning provisions for cannabis-related businesses, except for cultivation centers and dispensing organizations.

Degroot said Nov. 25 is a tentative date for the City Council to consider the commission’s recommendations.

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