Former AC-Humko Site May Be Retrofitted For New Cannabis Craft Grow Facility

By Benjamin Cox on November 16, 2022 at 9:40am

Jacksonville may soon be home to a cannabis craft grow facility.

The Jacksonville City Council heard a presentation from representatives of Wyvern Botanticals, an Illinois-licensed cannabis craft grower who is looking to place a facility in Jacksonville.

Tim Dorsey, Managing Partner of Dorsey Ventures & Consulting, who is consulting on the Jacksonville project says the hope is to bring revitalization and jobs to Jacksonville: “We all have some roots here. We are looking to rehabilitate and retrofit the ACH property, to beautify that and bring sources of revenue and employment to Jacksonville. Part of that process, unfortunately for us, is a request for a variance or an amendment to an ordinance that exists with some residential easement. We’re requesting that variance or change be approved by the City Council to allow us to bring that economic improvement and job creation to the city.”

Currently, the city’s zoning ordinance requires any craft grow or cannabis dispensary to not be within 1,500 feet of residential areas. The AC-Humko plant has a new subdivision neighboring the property to the southwest and the Blackhawk Apartments directly west of the campus. All told, the facility is within 295 feet of residential property. City Attorney Dan Beard says the original intent of the ordinance was to limit a dispensary or craft grow facility being placed near downtown or closer to residential areas in Jacksonville. Dorsey says one of the reasons why the ACH property was chosen was due to its size and the already existing security measures the property already has in place.

The variance and re-zone request for a special use permit will first have to be recommended by the Plans Commission prior to a vote from the City Council.

Dorsey says not only with the city benefit from extra tax revenues from the state, but local contractors, local dispensaries, and local products will be employed and produced from the facility. Dorsey says the campus will also be utilized for a secondary purpose: “Part of the scenario with the ACH property is that we have 56 acres of access to that we are looking at renewable energy resources to place and to power our facility. Inherently by doing that, we have an opportunity to give back some of those renewable processes and business contacts to the City of Jacksonville for other sustainable and renewable projects.”

Dorsey says the effort will also rehabilitate and restore the property from being a vacant eyesore. Dennis Werth, who has been a salesman in another industry prior to entering investment into cannabis cultivation, says he’s looked at the vacant property for the last two decades traveling into town. He knows its lengthy history with the city and it’s extremely long vacancy. Werth says through some “putty, paint, and glue” the group will beautify the property and make it look like a welcoming site for those who enter Jacksonville’s east end. Dorsey also noted they will hope to a retain a low nuisance level with operations all taking place indoors under heavy security, limiting noise and smell pollution through a sophisticated HVAC system, and keeping low traffic into and out of the facility.

Werth says if members of the City Council or residents of Jacksonville want an idea of what the facility’s appearance and operations will look like, to visit Revolution Enterprises medical cannabis cultivation center and laboratory in Barry.

Dorsey says the facility will initially have a canopy of 7,000 square feet with the ability to grow into a 14,400-foot flower canopy. He says the facility will employ about 20 people, with the hopes of “growing into” their license similar to what happened to Barry facility did over the last 7 years.

Dorsey says if the City Council and Plans Commission approves the zoning variance or changing of the ordinance in December, work on the facility will begin right away with the hopes of opening for operations after retro-fitting next summer.

Current owner of the property Mike Hayes says he’s already communicated with neighbors who are in favor of the project. He says he’s also done due diligence on the potential buyers: “I bought that property when it came up for auction. I stepped in because I wanted to have some control over what happens there because I wanted to make sure we had a good neighbor.” Hayes currently owns the 56-lot subdivision that butts against the ACH property to the southwest. Hayes says he’s had multiple inquiries since acquiring the property more than 5 years ago, many of which he says didn’t make sense: “The second highest bidder on the property at the auction was for a scrap yard. I’ve had scrap yards. I’ve had meat-butchering facilities. I’ve had all kinds of groups asking about it. As many remember the AC-Humko plant when it operated, it didn’t smell so great. It backed up all the sewers around the area frequently. I haven’t seen many things that I thought made sense. I think [Wyvern’s] proposal makes a lot of sense. Everything is going to be inside. All the cultivation is going to be inside. They are under strict regulations as far as security and cameras. I really wasn’t looking for something that was going to have a super high level of traffic, train traffic, trucks in and out all day. This group has done a high level of due diligence on the property. I think they are well financed. They are licensed. I’ve had two or three other craft growers come in there to look, none of which had licenses. They certainly have the capability. They’ve done it in other places.”

Hayes says that this opportunity with the craft grow also presents the city council with an amount of control of what goes into the facility, and if the city passes on the craft grow; future proposals for the site may not have to come before the board.

Dorsey said that submission of site plans and a rezoning request were available to the city directly after Monday night’s meeting in hopes of having it approved at the first city council meeting in December.