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Local

St. Charles aldermen begin discussions on allowing Zen Leaf to sell recreational marijuana at current location

Aldermen will take up the issue again at the next City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting on Feb. 10

Anthony Marsico, executive vice president for retail for Zen Leaf, on Monday addresses aldermen on St. Charles City Council's Planning and Development Committee about whether Zen Leaf should be able to sell recreational marijuana along with medical marijuana at its dispensary at 3714 Illinois Ave.
Anthony Marsico, executive vice president for retail for Zen Leaf, on Monday addresses aldermen on St. Charles City Council's Planning and Development Committee about whether Zen Leaf should be able to sell recreational marijuana along with medical marijuana at its dispensary at 3714 Illinois Ave.

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles City Council's Planning and Development Committee on Monday began discussing whether Zen Leaf should be able to sell recreational marijuana along with medical marijuana at its dispensary at 3714 Illinois Ave.

"It's our goal to be a good partner, to have a good working relationship and make sure that we do not negatively impact any of the neighboring businesses," Anthony Marsico, executive vice president for retail for Zen Leaf, told aldermen on the committee.

Aldermen will take up the issue again at the next Planning and Development Committee meeting on Feb. 10. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has given Zen Leaf a license to operate a recreational marijuana dispensary. However, it still needs approval from the city to do so at its current location.

In December, plan commissioners voted 5-4 to recommend to the St. Charles City Council that recreational marijuana dispensaries be added as a special use in the M-2 limited manufacturing district. They also voted 5-4 to recommend to the City Council that Healthway Services of West Illinois, which operates Zen Leaf, be given special-use approval to operate a recreational marijuana dispensary at its location.

Zen Leaf is the city's only medical marijuana dispensary and has been in operation since 2015. As part of their approval, plan commissioners recommended that Zen Leaf upgrade its parking lot lighting. They also stipulated that Zen Leaf needs to install additional security cameras to monitor the parking lot and post additional signs regarding prohibition of on-site consumption.

"We've taken that measure already," Marsico said, in talking about the additional signs. "We've added that verbage on all of our parking signs that on-site consumption is strictly prohibited. That's something we haven't seen an issue with."

To meet the demand caused by the recreational marijuana dispensary, he said Zen Leaf has secured additional parking and is considering the purchase of the unit next to its current building. But Marsico said the addition of a recreational marijuana dispensary at the site won't change the nature of the facility.

"From an operations standpoint, the two dispensaries are identical," he said.

Third Ward Alderman Todd Bancroft took exception to viewing the two dispensaries as the same.

"I think of them differently," he said. "I think of one as a pharmacy and the other as a liquor store."

First Ward Alderman Ronald Silkaitis said he would like Zen Leaf to locate a recreational marijuana dispensary in an area that doesn't require a zoning change. Last year, aldermen voted 6-3 to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries as a special use in the community business and regional business zoning districts, meaning they would be located away from the city's downtown.

"I would just ask you to put it in a place that is zoned for it," he said. "I’m just asking for a compromise."

As part of the city's rules, recreational marijuana dispensaries have to be located at least 250 feet away from a school, day care facility, church or residential uses. But St. Charles planner Ellen Johnson said Beth Fowler School of Dance, which is located near Zen Leaf, would not fit the definition of a school under the city's ordinance. The dance studio is located at 3720 Illinois Ave.

"That would be considered potentially a specialized instructional school," Johnson has said.

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