Jacksonville Plans Commission Approves Zoning For Possible Cannabis Dispensary

By Benjamin Cox on March 3, 2022 at 5:37pm

Jacksonville is one step closer to having its first adult use cannabis dispensary.

The Jacksonville Plans Commission approved the rezoning of 1112 Veterans Drive from business-4 to business 4 special use zoning by a vote of 4 to 1. Nick Little was the lone ‘no’ vote on the council. Little did not wish to be interviewed in concern to his vote.

Kenny Pleasant of Bellevue, Washington was in attendance for the meeting. The former real estate entrepreneur said that he was originally opposed to cannabis usage because of its detriment to the Black community’s progress. However, as a Black man, he saw that many of the customers to the industry were older people and those with mental health problems seeking the drug for therapeutic use. He says that a main component of his 10 other dispensaries is education and being a good municipal partner with the cities in which they operate. Pleasant says he hopes to use the dispensary as a way to partner with the City of Jacksonville’s other businesses and help the community grow and succeed.

Plans Commission Chair Mike Oldenettel says that Pleasant’s petition for rezoning checked all the boxes under the city’s ordinance for placement of the business: “I was very impressed actually with [Mr. Pleasant’s] presentation. It was comforting to know that isn’t his first dispensary – this isn’t his second one – this is his 10th or 11th, so we are dealing with an entity that I think that they know where they are going and they know the hurdles that they have to get through. He had mentioned issues with the State of Illinois, whom they are waiting on for some finalization of things. My comfort level was raised with him being here this evening and talking about his business, and his business’ operations. The city already made the decision to allow this to happen. It was just up to us to decide where it could go. I feel this is a good location and so did the committee.”

City Development Director Brian Nyberg believes that Pleasant’s company is the perfect fit for Jacksonville. Nyberg believes that city is missing out on large revenue stream as many in the city already go to Springfield or Quincy for dispensaries anyway. Nyberg says he’s also been impressed by the blue prints of the business when it comes to security: “I know the State of Illinois puts regulation on as far as cameras and what the Illinois State Police has to have access to those cameras 24/7, so I think that will make policing for any city, local or municipality that much easier when it’s 24/7. They know exactly what’s going on. I know it’s even more strict with craft grow facilities that you have to have card swipes to go in any rooms so they know where everybody in the building is at any time and they know exactly how many plants are in the building. I’m not sure if that’s the same type of strict things that [dispensaries] have to have, but I know that the State Police will be involved and they will have close contact with the city police.”

With the Plans Commission making their recommendation, the special use permit will now head before the Jacksonville City Council for final approval.

In other petitions, the Plans Commission approved Chehog, LLC’s petition to rezone 117 East Morton Avenue from Business-3 to Business-3 with Special Use. The proposal indicates that a drive-thru Pizza Hut will go in the location. Tom Richards of Chehog, LLC says they will also be constructing a concrete pad to have their own dumpster to the east of the business. Local neighbors had questions about the business after complaining of alleged health code violations and problems with the dumpster currently behind Dunkin’ Donuts. The petition passed unanimously.

The final petition was to rezone the old Lafayette School at 747 West Lafayette Avenue from public to Business-4 for the relocation of The Little Red Wagon Daycare. After a neighbor voiced concerns about the daycare’s hours of operation bringing noise and traffic concerns as well as concerns about the daycare’s miniature ponies and a proposed barn to be constructed on the property, the commission approved the rezoning.

The commission also discussed potential zoning ordinances for an upcoming city licensing ordinance of long-term rentals, bed & breakfasts, and AirBnBs. City Attorney Dan Beard says that the ordinance would require everyone in the city who currently operates one of those types of business to be registered and licensed by the city. The plans commission’s input to the ordinance would be just exactly where those types of businesses could be located. Further discussion with the city council and the plans commission is expected before the ordinance is finalized.