First Reading of Rezoning Request for Proposed Marijuana Dispensary Approved

By Jeremy Coumbes on March 16, 2022 at 2:44pm

The City of Jacksonville took another step toward bringing a marijuana dispensary to town.

The City Council approved the first reading of a request to rezone the property located at 1112 Veterans Drive from B-4 to B-4 with special use by a vote of 9 to 1 last night, with Ward 2 Alderman Alison Rubin de Celis casting the lone no vote.

Earlier this month the Jacksonville Plans Commission approved the request after Kenny Pleasant of Bellevue, Washington presented his plan to open a marijuana dispensary in the building that at one time housed D.P. Express Photo Service.

The council heard discussion on the matter during both the workshop session and regular meeting last night. Gretchen Tonellato and Shilea Jones, who both work in a neighboring business, expressed their concerns about the safety of the area near the proposed marijuana dispensary, and if crime would increase in the area, as well as concerns about the close proximity to Jacksonville Middle School and the Gateway Foundation.

City Attorney Dan Beard said after the meeting that the City Council is very cognizant of the fact that its an issue that a lot of people have some concerns with. “At the same time from what we have seen about how highly regulated these facilities are through the state, and we took precautions so they would not be located close to a school for example.

We feel very confident from the presentation that Mr. Pleasant the owner of this facility gave at the plans commission because it’s going to be a very clean, very safe facility. And any issues the plan commission may have had were completely addressed by him.”

Beard says the city previously approved changing of ordinance and municipal code after the State of Illinois legalized marijuana use in 2019 to allow for such a business to come to town. He says the approval of the site meets with all of the regulations in both state and local code, including the proximity to Jacksonville Middle School.

To match the state regulations we are only talking maybe three to five hundred feet distance so we are quite a ways away from those types of things. And again, you have to keep in mind what type of facility we’re talking about. This is a very secure facility, very highly regulated, and licensed by the state.

And Polly had a very good point. It is legal in Illinois and some of the street product is getting very dangerous out there, and if it is legal, maybe it is better that there is an opportunity to purchase it under a very highly regulated system that the state runs.”

Polly Williams expressed her concerns about the dispensary, but moreover that she hoped if it passed, it would help keep younger people from buying the unregulated marijuana from people on the street.

Mayor Andy Ezard said after the meeting that he felt the discussion was positive for the council to hear overall, and that there is still time for continued discussion before the change is fully approved.

Good discussion, but it’s the first reading, there’s two more weeks before the next meeting. If there’s a push in the community, the aldermen are going to listen to their constituents, and we’ve had folks that are against it and they did a great job presenting. They reached out to their alderman beforehand and shared their concerns and I hope things don’t happen, but collectively the council passed it nine to one.”

If the City Council approves the second reading of the request during the next regular meeting on Monday, March 28th, Pleasant and his company will be allowed to move forward with opening a dispensary in the location.