All three medical marijuana dispensary hopefuls on the zoning board of appeal’s docket were granted a conditional zoning OK by the Forest Park ZBA Monday night. 

The ruling, which is a recommendation only and needs final approval by the village council, gave a new lease on life to the St. Fiacre’s site in the Kevil’s restaurant location at 7228 Circle Ave. A previous zoning meeting, Sept. 15, was declared void after the village sent notices to the wrong households. At that meeting, the vote was deadlocked with two votes for and two against the St. Fiacre’s site. 

Monday’s meeting had all seven ZBA members present, including newest member John Kanzia. No vote was unanimous, with some board members voting no for every location.

All three recommendations had language that the approval was guaranteed for a medical marijuana dispensary site only. If recreational marijuana is legalized in the state of Illinois, the agreements for these locations are no longer approved, the village documents said. 

Neighbors objected in public comment to all three sites. Townhome neighbors of the Kevil’s site submitted a petition of 176 neighbor signatures opposing the location. 

Only Don Wasilevich, local business owner of Defiant Comics on Madison Street, spoke in favor of the Kevil’s location, calling it a “better choice” because it was out of the way and easily patrolled by both Forest Park and River Forest police.

New voices at the hearing were neighbors of the Roosevelt Road sites at 7501 and 7621. Residents near the old Washington Mutual Bank storefront at 7501 Roosevelt Road location also submitted a petition of 100 signatures of opposing neighbors.  

Courtney Ramirez, who identified herself as a Realtor said she wondered why the village would permit this kind of business when Roosevelt Road was planned for upgrades to streetscaping and renovation in coming years. She said the village should not think of property values going down near a pot dispensary, but encourage businesses that boosted property values.

Zoning Board chair Austin Zimmer had to remind neighbors repeatedly that the State of Illinois made the final determination about whether a medical pot dispensary could locate in Forest Park and that their job was only advisory. 

Mary and Matt Hickey complained that the location was too close to Field-Stevenson School. Matt Hickey said his experience working near methadone clinics on Chicago’s West Side showed that “undesirables” would be attracted to a medical pot dispensary. He pointed out the security mandates for video surveillance and bullet proof glass were advised by the state for a reason. “The mandates are there because [the state] knows what it brings.” 

Leah Gedvilas, of the 1100 block of Beloit said she and her husband had just moved to the neighborhood with a new baby. 

“To our shocking dismay, this business was opening up on the block,” she said. “If this would have been a month ago we would not have bought on this street with a school (Field-Stevenson) only 1,200 feet away.” Gedvilas said she wanted her son to be able to ride his bike on the block and feel safe. She said an important duty for a community was to protect and attract young families.

Medical professional and neighbor Martin Fourtier presented several articles to the ZBA board. He said studies showed medical marijuana and legalized recreational marijuana were linked to an increase in fatal auto accidents and other emergency room visits. 

Francis Agosa of the 1100 block of Beloit Avenue said uncertainty was part of the pilot program to introduce medical marijuana. He said his children attended Field-Stevenson and he could see both the Green MC location and Field-Stevenson school from his home. 

“Whenever we are uncertain about outcomes, we [should] err on the side of our children,” he said.  

Evan Hilton, petitioner for the 7501 Roosevelt location, said the state mandated extreme security measures with a 24-hour live video feed that was monitored by Forest Park police. 

“We don’t anticipate any black market activity,” Hilton said.

The newcomer applicant, Curative Health LLC, proposed for 7621 Roosevelt asked for a zoning variance to reduce the number of mandated parking spots from nine to four. The board granted the variance.  

Neighbors Cornelius and Lizzest Wentworth of the 1100 block of Lathrop Avenue told the board their close neighbors did not receive zoning notices through the mail. Village planning consultant JoEllen Charlton said that might have been because the notices were sent to the owner of record of the home, not the actual address. 

The board voted 4-to-3 to approve the Circle Avenue and WaMu locations, and five-to-two to approve the 7621 location. Board members Jeff Chan and Robert Scafidi voted no on all three locations.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...