If the Forest Park Village Council follows the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) recommendation at a meeting in January, Forest Park will officially have zoning in place to accommodate recreational marijuana businesses and facilities in the village.

With adult sale and use of recreational marijuana becoming legal in Illinois beginning Jan. 1, the town has been working toward assessing resident opinion on the issue and proactively amending the village zoning code to allow and regulate cannabis businesses beginning in 2020. 

Mayor Rory Hoskins held two public meetings at which residents were invited to share their thoughts regarding recreational marijuana in Forest Park. Little to no opposition was expressed at these meetings. 

Meanwhile, Steve Glinke, director of Public Health and Safety, has been working with the village planning consultants, Courtney Kashima and Nina Idemudia, from Muse Community + Design to put forth recommended cannabis zoning for the town.

At a Dec. 17 ZBA meeting, the board voted to accept Glinke and the consultants’ recommended zoning with one change. The proposed zoning amendments will be presented to Hoskins and the four commissioners at a January meeting, at which the amendments will be brought to a vote.

The proposed zoning text amendments do two things: First, they define the different types of businesses described in the code. These definitions are taken directly from the state’s definitions in the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, in order to ensure that Forest Park’s zoning and wording is in alignment with the state’s. Second, they outline what types of recreational cannabis businesses will be allowed in which village zones, and whether the businesses will be granted permitted or conditional use. 

Conditional use is given to business types that can apply to open and operate in the appropriate zone but must first be approved in two public meetings, one held by the ZBA and one by the village council. The public is invited to attend and voice opinions at these meetings, but the board or council make the final decision through a vote.

Notice of the public hearing for a conditional-use application/hearing is sent to every taxpayer within 200 feet of the proposed business, and a notice is run in the newspaper.

Permitted use allows businesses to open “by right,” meaning that the two public meetings required for conditional-use businesses do not apply and the business is permitted as long as it meets the development requirements laid out in the code.

Potential businesses and investors often find it more appealing to open when their business is a permitted use because the process is quicker and there isn’t the risk of being voted against at either of the two meetings. But conditional use is appropriate in cases where the village wants to allow a type of business but would like to look at situations on a case-by-case basis.

A brief description of the zoning code text amendment that will be presented to the council for vote in January is as follows:

Community Shopping District

In these areas, defined as the B-2 District, adult-use cannabis distribution will be added as conditional use within a 500-foot distance of schools and churches. This district includes sections of Roosevelt Road and Harlem Avenue.

Downtown Business District (DBD)

In the DBD, marijuana dispensaries will be allowed as conditional use. The DBD is primarily the Madison Street shopping area of Forest Park.

Light Industrial District

In the light industrial or I-1 district, manufacturing, cultivation, transportation and distribution of recreational cannabis will be allowed as conditional use. This district includes the area south of Roosevelt Road to 16th Street between Hannah Avenue and Circle Avenue.

Heavy Industrial District

In the heavy industrial or I-2 district, manufacturing, cultivation and transportation will be permitted uses. This district includes the Forest Park Mall on Roosevelt Road and the U.S. Postal Service facility. It also includes the businesses along Industrial Drive. 

The proposed zoning amendments to the I-2 district, as presented by Glinke and the consultants, included distribution as a permitted use; the ZBA, however, changed distribution in this zone to conditional use. The code amendments were then unanimously accepted by the ZBA.

In January, Glinke and/or the planning consultants will present the zoning amendments to the village council, who will vote to reject, accept, or accept with changes.

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