FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The Fairview Heights City Council on March 3 voted 8-3 to approve zoning regulations for marijuana businesses that want to come to the community.
This is the third, and final, piece of legislation the city had to pass before a dispensary would be able to open in the city. The council previously passed ordinances that allowed marijuana sales and restricted the number to just one single dispensary.
“It was not our intent to open the whole city up so we can have a bunch of locations all over,” said Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky.
This legislation limits where the lone dispensary can open to industrial areas and some of the city’s general and planned business districts. On paper, that includes the city’s central business district, the mall, many properties along Lincoln Trail and property east of the Fairview Heights MetroLink station.
There are limitations placed on a dispensary operator that won’t allow it to open a dispensary on just any parcel in an approved zoning district, said Fairview Heights Director of Land Use and Development Andrea Riganti.
In Fairview Heights, dispensaries must be at least 500 feet away from existing residential lots and 1,500 feet from school property lines. That includes nursery, primary and secondary schools and day care centers or homes. A dispensary would also need to be in a free-standing building and not be part of a strip mall or co-tenant building.
These requirements knock out many of the properties along Highway 50 and IL-159, Riganti said. She added that potential dispensaries will also have to go through a special-use permit process with the city.
“There are uses that are considered potentially harmful for a community because of noise, traffic, odor,” she said. “We’ve determined that an adult-use dispensary is a use that could be harmful.”
The entire special use process takes between three and four months. During that time city staff, the planning commission and city council review an individual application, Riganit said. The city council ultimately decides the fate of where a dispensary will set up shop.
“There’s no way it would go next to Red Robin. There’s no way it would go next to Barnes and Noble,” said Ward II Alderman Ryan Vickers during the meeting. “There’s no way that anybody on this council would let it go next to the New Balance outlet at The Shoppes at St. Clair.”
Fairview Heights has received significant interest from operators who want to open a dispensary in the retail-heavy city.
“I’ve had as many as 14 people call me about whether we would allow dispensaries and where we’re allowing them,” Kupsky said. “They have varied from people who currently operate to people who think they can make a quick dollar.”
Ascend Wellness, which owns Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville, has repeatedly identified Fairview Heights as the site of its next recreational dispensary. The company purchased 455 Salem Pl., which is zoned for planned business, in the city one day after the City Council voted to allow recreational marijuana sales.
Riganti confirmed the company is renovating it to be a dispensary.
A spokesperson for Illinois Supply and Provisions said the company will make an announcement about its planned secondary location in the Metro East later this year.
The state will also grant 75 dispensary licenses for applicants that don’t have an existing medical dispensary, but those won’t be awarded until May 1. The Metro East will see up to four of those new licenses.
One resident raised concerns at the March 3 City Council meeting that the one dispensary location in Fairview Heights would go to Ascend Wellness, a large multi-state company, instead of an operator with local ties to the community.
Parking availability will be a major factor for the elected leaders as they consider potential dispensary locations, something Riganti identified as a concern about the building Ascend Wellness bought.
The city will complete a traffic impact analysis and investigate how a dispensary would impact the surrounding businesses, Riganti said.
“We are looking closely at the impacts of what’s happening in Collinsville with traffic and congestion,” Kupsky said. “Whether you’re opening a restaurant or professional office, you have to have enough parking to adequately support the needs of that business.”
Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.
Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid
Reprinted with permission from news.stlpublicradio.org.