The owners of three proposed medical marijuana dispensaries in Chicago will have to continue waiting for their permits, after the city’s Zoning Board of Appealsrescheduled hearings for two applications into the winter, while delaying a final decision on the third.
More than a hundred people showed showed up to the zoning panel’s monthly meeting Friday to provide testimony on proposed dispensaries in their neighborhoods, but only one of the applications, 420 Capital Management, LLC’sproposed shop in West Rogers Park, actually got a hearing, which lasted for well over an hour.
The three member zoning panel grilled Bob Kingsley, the applicant seeking to open up a dispensary on the site of a former car dealership on 6502 N. Western Ave.
Local Alderman Debra Silverstein (50) has gone on record saying she isn’t a fan of the dispensary because of its close proximity to Warren Park. But when it came time for her to testify, she gave no opinion on the matter and deferred public comment to her constituents.
It was Kingsley’s second time before the panel. Citing a change in legal counsel at the the May meeting, Kingsley requested a continuance to August so that his new attorney, Thomas S. Moore, could have more time to prepare.
But after lengthy questioning from the board, the applicant failed to receive unanimous support. With Commissioner Sol Flores casting the lone no vote, Chairman Jonathan Swain said a final decision would be held until the 4th member could cast a vote.
Union Group of Illinois, LLC, the company behind a proposed dispensary in 41st Ward, wasn’t as lucky, as Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) delayed their application for the second time until the end of December.
“We were kind of set to go today,” the freshman alderman explained to the board, “but then we started comparing our [survey] numbers with the Union Group, who has been awesome during this whole ordeal. We don’t feel that our numbers are adding up properly and we don’t feel that we’re really advocating for the ward properly.”
His office has said most residents oppose the dispensary, while the applicant’s numbers tell a different story.
The North Side alderman has made his opposition to the dispensary known, often saying he wouldn’t want his kids living near a marijuana shop. When he made his first deferral request at the May hearing, soon after being sworn in, he needed more time to review the proposal and gauge public opinion. The attorney for the applicant, Joseph P. Gattuso with Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, reluctantly accepted the August date.
On Friday, Gattuso was clearly peeved.
“We believe that we have been as cooperative as we could possibly be,” Gattuso said, citing the three community meetings the company has had since Ald. Napolitano assumed office and the “numerous conversations back and forth and the sharing of volumes of reams of information”, as he put it. Union Group has applied for two extensions with the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Gattuso added. His office is concerned they won’t get a third extension, which could derail the project all together.
And when Chairman Swain refused to budge on the December date, Gattuso sighed audibly and walked out of the Chambers. Shortly after, Gattuso, Ald. Napolitano, and his Chief of Staff Chris Vittorio were seen arguing in the cloak room behind Council Chambers.
But neither of those dispensary proposals were as heated as Harborside Illinois Grown Medicine, Inc.’s application to open a dispensary in Chatham. 8th ward residents packed the gallery and were outraged when James Vasselli of Del Galdo Law Group, the applicant’s attorney, requested a continuance to November, so his clients could conduct additional community outreach.
The heckling was so loud that Chairman Swain stopped the attorney, scolded the gallery for being disrespectful, and demanded a head count. Approximately 70 people were there to testify against the dispensary and around 45 people were there in support, according to Swain’s estimate.
He then turned to the local alderman, Michelle Harris (8), a City Council heavyweight, and asked her to speak on the topic.
“Today, my community is here,” Ald. Harris declared, requesting permission to allow a couple of her constituents to speak on the matter. Opponents were worried about crime and accused the owner of having a rap sheet. Supporters touted economic development and the fact that Harborside is a minority-owned business.
This was the second time Harborside’s application has gone before the Zoning Board. They faced over an hour of questioning in May, but the consideration derailed over the accuracy of economic disclosure statements and the company’s registered name. There seemed to be a mixup between IGM LLC, which is related to the dispensary, and Illinois Grown Medicine LLC, which is related to a separate cultivation business. Swain refused to deliberate on the matter until the error was fixed.
On Friday, he accused the applicants of delaying the application because of the overwhelming number of people that showed up to testify against the shop. He reluctantly approved a continuance until November.
Divided Roll Call Votes:
In addition to the split vote on the medical marijuana dispensary in the 50th Ward, three of Laura Holtz’s applications to make extensive renovations to her house on 173 N. Walcott St. failed to receive unanimous support– ZBA member Sam Toia voted against all three–delaying a final decision until Sheila O’Grady, the 4th ZBA member who wasn’t at the meeting, casts her vote.
Toia did not ask any questions during homeowner Holtz’s testimony. She planned to renovate her Bucktown home to add a breezeway from a proposed garage to her home, as well as a roof deck on top of that garage. She told the committee she wanted to install the breezeway to keep her 75 year-old mother and 16 year-old son safe from “being jumped.” She had been a robbery victim in the area, as had a friend.
Attorney Mark Kupiec of Mark Kupiec & Associates said Holtz had won approval from her neighbors and that a breezeway would be in character with the rest of the neighborhood.
306-15-S: A charter school moving to South Side’s New Beginnings Church won approval from ZBA after quick testimony from Dr. Nancy Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Prologue Inc. Prologue is a charter school service based in West Town, and was represented before ZBA by Mark Kupiec. Prologue operates four alternative charter high schools, mostly in the South Side.
Jackson says they want to relocate the Charles H. Houston School at 7847 S. Jeffery Blvd. to a space rented out of of New Beginnings Church at 6620-30 S. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Jackson said the school ran out of space, and it’s a more convenient location for more than half of the student body.
The pastor of the church and an active force in local and state politics, Corey Brooks, came to testify, but did not speak.
20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran did, saying moving the school to New Beginnings would be a boon to the Greater Grand Crossing, Woodlawn, and Englewood communities. “I think that this model is a growing model across the country and it is ideally located in this institution where the pastor here has reached out to a population of the community that is in strong need of additional supports,” he said. “It’s located in an area where the population has a number of dropouts that find that this institution and the leadership of this institution welcomes them.”
Prologue provides alternative education programs that operate alongside wraparound services to low income students between 17 and 21, helping students get GEDs or high school diplomas. New Beginnings Church also operates Project H.O.O.D., a non-profit that seeks to end violence in Englewood and Woodlawn.
286-15-S: Despite some persistent questioning from the Board, a $5M “spa-like” physical fitness center will go forward at 770 N. Halsted. The applicant is Acqua Ancient Baths Chicago, LLC. Katriina S. McGuire of Thompson Coburn LLCdescribed Acqua Ancient Baths as a mix of a spa and gym.
The owner operates four similar bath facilities out of New York and Spain. This location would be a non-members club, open from 11am-9pm, 7 days a week.
312-15-S: An eating disorder recovery center in Streeterville will move forward at 150 E. Huron Ave on the 12th and 13th Floors. Insight Behavioral Health Centers, partnered with Denver’s Eating Recovery Center, LLC, applied to open a 24-bed transitional residence near Northwestern Hospital, who provides about 25% of referrals. Insight operates treatment centers in Streeterville, Oak Park, Northbrook, Evanston, and a separate eating recovery center at Millennium Place.
Dr. Susan McClanahan is a licensed clinical psychologist and the President and Founder of Insight Behavioral Health Centers. She testified that a typical patient is a woman between 12 and 35 years old with bulimia, anorexia, or obesity problems. She says the average stay is 30 to 45 days.
298-15-Z: There was just one denied application to dramatically reduce setbacks for a new four-story, three-unit building with a rooftop deck and fourth floor, front open balcony and a rear attached three-car garage with a roof deck in the 44th Ward.
Meg George with the law firm of Neal and Leroy represented Seamus Mornan, the applicant. The team testified it was a short lot with a single family home in poor shape. They want to transform the site into a masonry three flat, and the building’s first and second stories would only jut out into the rear setback. Mornan said without the variance, he wouldn’t get a good return on the investment.
A group of neighbors next door to the site at 722 W. Melrose St. testified adding on to the rear lot would cause them to lose significant light and ventilation. They said other buildings in the neighborhood with similar lots rented apartments without a problem and the applicants should go back to the drawing board.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44), while recognizing the proposed site does have a short lot, said he had communication problems with the redevelopment team. “I don’t feel comfortable not supporting my neighbors on this particular case.”
20-15-S: Industrial Metal Enterprise, Inc’s application for a special use permit to establish a Class IV-A recycling facility on 901 N. Kilpatrick Ave. in the 37th Ward.
100-15-S: Health Elements Foot Spa, Inc.’s application for a special use permit to open a foot massage salon on 1125 W. 31st St. in the 11th Ward.
Continuances for ZBA are now stretching into January, aided in large part by objections from Ald. Michele Smith (44). Here’s the full list:
315-15-Z, 316-15-Z, 317-15-Z: A house renovation in 43rd Ward will be put off. Ald. Michele Smith’s office asked to defer for community review. It will be heard November 20th.
318-15-S: Lawyers for Cermak Recycling, Inc. say their client might be changing the site of a Class V recycling facility, currently slated for the 25th ward.
164-15-Z: A knockdown renovation in the 43rd ward that was filed in January and faced some pushback from Ald. Smith in the Spring be continued until November because of the need for an extra relief request.
187-14-S: An absent client postponed a hearing for a parking lot in the 4th ward until November.
301-15-S: Ald. Matt O’Shea’s office asked the board to defer so he could do research on a salon in the 19th ward. Chairman Swain moved up the continuance, because the applicant, Kaiisha Dear, is already paying rent on the place.
321-15-Z: Ald. Smith requested a continuance until November for a proposed garage and roof deck in the 43rd ward behind John and Anne Moroney’s home.
314-15-Z: Adjacent landowners in the 44th ward couldn’t get a lawyer in time to push back against a renovation at 3528 North Janssen Avenue. The attorney for Chicago Title Land Trust, No. 8002366263 was ready to go, but the two sides couldn’t work out a compromise Friday.
308, 309-15-Z: Ald. Smith’s office asked for continuance so she could talk to condo board association before Robert Matteson’s renovation could move forward.