ROCHELLE — In a unanimous 6-0 vote on Monday night, the Rochelle Planning and Zoning Commission made three recommendations for zoning of possible future cannabis cultivation facilities and dispensary stores.
Committee members are recommending to Rochelle City Council that any cannabis cultivation operations be located only in Industrial zones, including I-1, I-2 and I-3 regions.
The commission is also recommending that any cannabis dispensary business can only be located in a Business 2 zone.
In addition, the committee members are recommending that both the growing centers and the dispensary stores be located at least 200 feet from any residential zone, schools, public parks and daycare facilities.
Prior to the vote, a public hearing was held on the matter and three individuals shared their opinions.
Gabrielle Lepperd, who is a drug abuse counselor, urged the planning commission to deny any marijuana businesses to locate in Rochelle.
“I am not in favor to allow it in town,” she stated. “I am worried about the ramifications on public health and I know first-hand that marijuana use can lead to other drug addictions. I don’t think it’s fair to put this in town and make it easily available.”
Christina Barrett gave a different view to the commission, stating that marijuana has shown to provide pain relief benefits and it will actually help in reducing opioid addictions.
“As a nurse who has seen drunk driving and opioid problems, a dispensary would be helpful to the community,” she said. “Marijuana charges that have caused people problems will be erased under the new laws and that is good to help people move past their problems.”
Local resident and business owner Russ Stevens was also present and provided some additional comment about his plan to add a marijuana dispensary at his current Hub City Shuttle business, located on the south side of Rochelle on IL Route 251 just south of the Fairways Golf Course.
“We are asking you folks to consider my current location in the Business 2 zone on the commercial highway,” Stevens stated.
Commissioners began discussing the proximity of Stevens’ building in relation to the nearest residence and also to Connolly Park near Gary Street and Cleveland Avenue.
A minimum setback distance of 200 feet from both was thrown out by commissioner Ryan Carson which sparked some debate.
“Anything near a residential area I don’t want it there,” said commissioner Pal Colwill.
“Well, we’ve got a business owner who is already in the process of applying with the state for a dispensary and he’s got a good current location, so I am in favor of a setback distance that doesn’t automatically exclude that building,” said commissioner Kurt Wolter. “Based on where the house sits behinds his business it’s like 90 or 75 feet.”
“I’m not comfortable with that,” Carson stated, who then suggested both cultivation facilities and dispensary businesses both must be set back at least 200 feet from residential zoned areas, schools, daycare centers and public parks.
The motion passed in a 6-0 vote.
The State of Illinois is expected to award just three dispensary licenses in a nine-county northern Illinois region, but the city wants to have the ordinances in place in case a Rochelle based business is chosen.
Rochelle City Council will now consider the recommendation at one of its two October meetings.
In other business, the commission also is recommending a sign setback variance for the new Benny’s Market Mobil gas station and convenience store located at the intersection of Flagg Road and IL Route 251.
The state currently has a right of way in place off of IL Route 251 in the event the highway is converted to five lanes in that area.
Business owner Tim Hayden told the board he wants to place a sign in the right of way and agreed to relocate it in the future if the state should ever move forward with widening the highway.
Hayden stated that he expects the store to be open in the next few weeks, and the commission voted 6-0 to recommend the variance to Rochelle City Council.