By Bob Uphues
Brookfield trustees are poised to vote next month on amendments to the village's zoning code that regulate where cannabis can be dispensed, cultivated and processed, following a recommendation by the Planning and Zoning Commission last week.
On Nov. 21, planning commissioners accepted revisions made by village hall staff to their initial submittal, which would have made adult-use cannabis dispensaries and related business allowed by right in commercial and industrial areas in Brookfield.
But after input from the village board and sensing unease from planning commissioners about simply allowing cannabis dispensaries and related businesses by right, staff tightened the suggested regulations.
At the village board's committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 25, trustees appeared to largely agree with those revisions, the most significant of which will require all cannabis-related businesses to obtain special use permits in order to operate in Brookfield.
According to Village Planner Elyse Vukelich, planning commissioners leaned toward requiring a special use permit because of the possibility that cannabis dispensaries could also allow onsite consumption of the products.
"I think, in particular, the onsite consumption of cannabis came up a lot at the Planning and Zoning Commission," Vukelich said. "There's a lot of questions about how it would actually work in reality, and because of those untested elements, they felt it was best to include it as a special use."
Most village trustees also appeared comfortable with where the amended code would allow the location of dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses. Dispensaries would be allowed as a special use along the entire lengths of Ogden Avenue and 47th Street.
Dispensaries would also be allowed in the Eight Corners and Grand Boulevard business districts, as well as the commercially designated properties on 31st Street, which generally fall between Sunnyside and Arthur avenues.
However, dispensary locations would be further restricted by a requirement that no dispensary could be located within 100 feet of a pre-existing school or daycare. That provision mirrors the village's zoning code relative to alcohol sales.
But, the provision would impact where cannabis dispensaries could locate in the Eight Corners and Grand Boulevard commercial districts. Because of the presence of S.E. Gross Middle School, Alphabet Learning Center and Montessori Children's Community, the entire 9200 block of Broadway Avenue and part of the 3400 block of Maple Avenue would be off limits to cannabis dispensaries.
Alphabet Learning Center's second location on Grand Boulevard would also shrink the area in that district where cannabis dispensaries are allowed to roughly the south one-third of the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard. Dispensaries would also be allowed at the commercial properties framing the Burlington-Prairie intersection.
Trustee Brian Conroy said he favored eliminating cannabis dispensaries completely in the Grand Boulevard and Eight Corners business districts.
"I'm not a big fan of allowing the dispensaries in the walkable business districts," said Conroy, adding that his experience on a recent trip to California reinforced that view. "You can't walk anywhere without hitting a cloud of the stuff. I know it's still illegal to smoke it in public, but it's being smoked and you don't know where it's coming from. It's just there. And it's not something I want to experience in our walkable business districts."
However, Conroy's objection did not have much support among fellow trustees, who said they wanted to accept the Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendation.
Village trustees also accepted the commission's recommendation to restrict craft cannabis growers, infusers and processing businesses to the wedge-shaped industrial area bordered by Southview Avenue, the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks and Blanchan Avenue.
Trustee Michael Garvey suggested that those uses also might be appropriate for 47thStreet, but in the end trustees were comfortable with the amendment as presented.
The village board is expected to vote on the zoning amendments at their meeting on Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the village hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave. Adult-use cannabis sales become legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.
Also on Dec. 9, village trustees may also be faced with adopting business license requirements and fees for cannabis related operations. Asked how the fees might be structured, Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said that business license fees for cannabis dispensaries likely would be similar to liquor license fees.
Brookfield trustees decided against specifying a limit on the number of cannabis-related businesses the village will allow, saying that existing limits in the state law and in Brookfield's proposed code amendments would naturally limit their presence locally.