EDWARDSVILLE — Metro East cities that want to allow cannabis-related businesses are starting to decide where these establishments can set up shop in their communities.
The Edwardsville City Council made its decision Tuesday night when it voted 7-0 to establish new zoning rules and other restrictions for cannabis businesses that may come to the city.
Specifically, aldermen decided to restrict dispensaries to land zoned for commercial, business and light manufacturing. All other cannabis-related operations, such as cultivators and infusers, would only be able to move to areas zoned for light manufacturing.
“This really is the final piece,” Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton said. “Individuals that will want to acquire a license from the state of Illinois will have all that they need to do business here in Edwardsville.”
The legislation in Edwardsville also lays out definitions for the different businesses associated with legal marijuana and sets limits for how close they can be to other properties.
In Edwardsville, businesses must be at least 250 feet away from existing residential lots and farther than 1,500 feet from school property lines. That includes nursery, primary and secondary schools and day care centers or homes. They also won’t be able to open downtown.
The council was split on whether to allow cannabis sales in the first place, but the aldermen are more on board with these restrictions in place, Patton said.
“Tonight you saw a unanimous decision on these locations, because even those that opposed it were happy with the restrictions that were put in the ordinance to minimize the locations,” he said. “We don’t want to see 15, 20 dispensaries. Realistically, one or two.”
Non-dispensary businesses, like distributors or growers, will mostly find development opportunities in the Gateway Commerce Center area. There are more than 2,000 acres of land zoned for manufacturing that can still be developed there.
“We didn’t think it had a place within the community,” Patton said. “Putting it out into the Gateway Commerce Area seems to make the most sense. It’s manufacturing a product for sale and fits with the other products that are gathered and sold throughout the warehouse district.”
Collinsville is next
Edwardsville was the first Metro East community to enact zoning regulations for legal marijuana, but others in the area are not far behind. Collinsville plans to take up a similar zoning ordinance at its city council meeting next Monday, said Assistant City Manager and Community Development Director Derek Jackson.
The zoning change is more pressing for Collinsville because it’s already home to HCI Alternatives, an existing medical dispensary that wants to transition to recreational sales on Jan. 1.
“We are wanting to get this done and codified by the end of 2019, so that day one, that organization can hit the ground running and start having retail sales,” Jackson said.
It’s not enough for a city to approve the sale of cannabis or taxes on it, he said. Recreational dispensaries and facilities, such as grow operations and marijuana processors, are prohibited from moving to a city until zoning rules change to accommodate cannabis businesses, Jackson explained.
Amending zoning regulations is the last step most city governments have to take, but that doesn’t mean new businesses will immediately flock to the communities.
“Even though it’ll be legal in Edwardsville and other locations in Illinois, any new business is probably looking at a year's worth of licensing, property acquisition and getting into a new establishment before they’re up and running,” Jackson said. “We have the luxury of already having an existing medical place that’s going to flip to recreation.”
Collinsville’s zoning changes will differ from the ones in Edwardsville in some key ways. Mainly, Collinsville will restrict the number of marijuana dispensaries to four, each in a different district of the town.
“We do not want saturation within a certain portion of the town,” Jackson said. “We want to make sure it’s spread out if we do get multiple dispensaries.”
But elected officials in Edwardsville aren’t concerned that too many dispensaries will pop up in the city.
“The map for the areas that would be allowed are very restricted,” Patton said. He explained the regulations for how close a marijuana business can be to homes or schools restrict the number of viable locations in the city to four or five.
Collinsville also allows one cannabis lounge where people could consume legal marijuana. Edwardsville’s rule change does not accommodate these kinds of establishments.
Looking ahead, Jackson said Collinsville is ready for the first legal marijuana sales.
“We are excited for this to take place; it’s part of our economic development strategy,” he said. “The intent for us, strategically, is to put [tax revenue from cannabis] into capital-improvement projects to improve our communities infrastructure.”
Highland, Belleville and East St. Louis have all approved the sale of recreational cannabis but have yet to set zoning regulations for potential legal marijuana businesses.
Correction: O'Fallon currently bans recreational sales but will ask it's residents whether they want to permit sales in a non-binding referendum in March.
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