Members of Prospect Heights’ planning and zoning board of appeals (PZBA) on Thursday Thursday June 25, 2020 voted 6-1 to recommend the city council approve a proposed recreational marijuana dispensary near the intersection of Rand Road and Thomas Street (Case No. ZBA 20-10 SU/Applicant Chris Fotopoulos, Prospect Heights RE, LLC).
A Zen Leaf™ cannabis dispensary is planned for the location at 1434 North Rand Road. The location is the former First Midwest Bank building in an out lot at the southwest corner of Rand Road and Thomas Street near the Prospect Heights Aldi Foods.
Zen Leaf™ are industry-leading cannabis dispensaries from Verano™ Holdings. There is one dispensary located in Illinois at 3714 Illinois Avenue in St. Charles.
The dissenting vote was from Commissioner Janet Saewert, who expressed that she agreed with many members of the public who are critical of the site’s proximity to Arlington Heights-located public schools John Hersey High School and Thomas Middle School. The proposed location for the Prospect Heights Zen Leaf™ is 0.5 mile west of John Hersey High School and 0.7 mile east of Thomas Middle School.
The proposed dispensary location is near an Arlington Heights-Prospect Heights border that is jagged and sets a confusing area regarding jurisdiction. In fact, many businesses use their Arlington Heights mail address for marketing purposes. For example HOME Bar calls itself an Arlington Heights venue, even though is a Prospect Heights location with an Arlington Heights mailing address.
Chairman Danielle Dash opened the hearing, stating the hearing’s purpose was to establish whether the proposed business met the city’s conditions for a permit, and not to debate either the adult use of marijuana or state or local laws regarding adult recreational use of marijuana. City staff members and some other members of the planning and zoning board made it clear that the proposal met all the standards and regulations adopted in 2019 to become Prospect Heights’ only permitted recreational marijuana dispensary. The Prospect Heights standards and regulations include distance guidelines from schools.
The Prospect Heights city council will consider a first reading of the proposed dispensary’s special use permit on Monday July 13, 2020. A second and final reading likely to be scheduled on Monday July 27, 2020.
A lengthy discussion during the hearing held on a Zoom teleconference included criticisms of the proposed location and the adverse situation of recreational marijuana awareness exposure to passing school children.
Many of the speakers PZBA meeting were residents of Arlington Heights. The proposed dispensary is less than 400 feet from two Arlington Heights homes, and several more Arlington Heights homes are closer to the proposed location than the closest Prospect Heights home. Several Arlington Heights residents recently opposed the Thornton’s gas station, which opened last fall across Thomas Street from the proposed dispensary location.
Anthony Marsico, Zen Leaf™ Vice President of Retail, said the planned dispensary would employ 30 to 40 people and generate an estimated $720,000 in annual sales tax for the City of Prospect Heights.
Marsico said security and vigilance are factors that are part of his company’s decision-making process for choosing existing locations. Marsico explained that there are not as many appropriate sites in Prospect Heights as people might think.
He added that much of Prospect Heights is residential, and that choosing a site in a shared strip mall, rather than the free-standing former First Midwest Bank building would raise other types of issues. Marsico’s comment got several positive nods from PZBA commissioners. The nearest Prospect Heights residences are about 700 feet away — a little further than the nearest Arlington Heights homes.
“Seeing vacant retail is never a good thing.”
— PZBA Chairman Danielle Dash
PZBA Commissioner Nilax Patel stated that the dispensary’s visibility would deter illegal behavior, as he countered public comments that the dispensary location’s visibility would be more attractive to teens than a more obscure location.
The Arlington Heights Village Board voted to opt out of retail sales of marijuana in Arlington Heightson November 4, 2019. While opting out, the Village Board voted in favor of a village ordinance to prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana in the Village of Arlington Heights.
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