About 20 townhome-dwelling neighbors of a proposed medical cannabis dispensary site at 7228 Circle Avenue showed up Thursday at a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to weigh in on the proposed locations for pot dispensaries in Forest Park.
Residents complained about the proximity of the first of three proposed sites to their property and to neighboring Circle Bowl, where children sometimes attend parties. The danger of a cash-only business opening close to the Green Line stop, where crime takes place anyway, is also of major concern to residents, who spoke during public comments.
ZBA Chair Austin Zimmer told the speakers there would be more time at a scheduled Sept. 15, meeting to voice complaints about proposed businesses in specific addresses.
The meeting at hand, he reminded the audience, was not for that purpose. Instead, it was meant to amend local ordinances that define which types of businesses can be run in the neighborhood shopping business district (B-2) and in the village’s industrial zones, I-1 and I-2.
The amendments would include medical cannabis dispensary as a “permitted use.” The ZBA also amended the zoning ordinance to specify that medical cannabis dispensaries required a special “conditional use” hearing before the ZBA. That hearing in this case will be on Sept. 15.
Dispensary hopeful and business owner Linda Cibula described the security proposed for her “St. Fiacre’s” medical marijuana dispensary as “very, very safe.”
“The amount of security required is over and above the amount for banks,” she said, noting the required security cameras and bulletproof glass.
Cibula added that, “There’s more cash going in and out at the Lake Theater [in Oak Park].”
Cibula said she preferred the B-2 zoning region because Industrial Drive “shuts down” at night,” while dispensaries can remain open until 8 p.m.
“Nobody wants to be there [at night]. Nobody wants to be across from a cemetery either,” Cibula said.
Patients and caregivers, she added, could not smoke joints anywhere near the dispensary and would put the packaged medical cannabis into their car trunk.
The mention of bulletproof glass was of no comfort to Shirley Suber, who noted the tendency for criminal incidents in the area because of the Green Line.
She also said she lived on the other side of the alley from Kevil’s and could see the site “out my dining room window.” She also mentioned federal laws that forbade money from medical marijuana being moved in nationwide banks. She worries of ancillary businesses being set up to “absorb” medical marijuana funds.
Townhome owner Karen McClard said she was concerned about walking past a dispensary and being targeted for crime. Property owners in the area, she insisted, did not want the reputation of a dispensary near them.
“Our townhome association has $7 million worth of property within a stone’s throw of this site,” she said. McClard worries that her ability to walk in the neighborhood would be limited if criminals think she’s carrying a wad of cash.
“I don’t want to be a target in my own home,” she said, pointed out the Circle Bowl was a spot frequented by children.
Eliminating the B-1 zone and downtown business district from the running for a pot dispensary was discriminatory against residents in the B-2 zone, noted Glenn Siegel.
“You’re making a decision about which residents you’re protecting and which should not be protected,” he said.
Neighbor Sean Blaylock added that many children lived close to the area.
“I could fill up half a busload of children in that area,” he said. “The reality is — that’s a neighborhood; it’s not an appropriate location.
“Forest Park,” he added, “is about small town charm, like Brown Cow Ice Cream and Circle Bowl and the ParkDistrictAquaticCenter. This business is not in a profile that matches Forest Park.”
James Hall, a security officer representing The Green Solution (TGS), a Colorado company, said the location at the former Deal$ Dollar store site at 7711 Roosevelt Road was preferable because delivery trucks and armored cars could drive into an enclosed delivery bay. He described how the basement of the building was well-suited for a safe for the dispensary, and how a “layered” security system would protect the TGS dispensary from burglary.
The most recently-appointed board member, Jeff Chen, had a few questions about use of the product by people once they left the dispensary.
Chen attempted to amend the motion to separate the zones B-2, I-1 and I-2 and vote individually on each one, but no other board member would second the amendment. Chen ended up voting against on the ordinance.
The zonbing board voted four to one to approve the text changes and create a conditional use status for medical pot dispensaries. The board’s recommendation will be considered by the village council at their meeting Sept. 8.
“Based on public comments and my own views, I thought there were valid concerns about B-2,” Chen said after the meeting.
This article has been updated to correct a quote by Linda Cibula and to include the vote on the zoning ordinance.