A flurry of cannabis entrepreneurs seeking zoning approval for their proposed dispensaries or indoor weed farms are stuck in regulatory limbo, as the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the already tedious public approval process for pot-related businesses to a near-standstill.
Six proposals for pot shops and another two for craft grow facilities were included on the agenda for a 10 a.m. meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards on Tuesday. But none of the applicants have won over their local aldermen, and none are expected to be considered at the meeting.
A proposal by Mark A. Reyes to open a grow site at 4614 S. Marshfield Ave. in the 15th Ward has been put on hold while Ald. Raymond Lopez (15) seeks out a way to hold a “community-wide discussion” on the proposal, the alderman wrote in a text message to The Daily Line on Monday.
Lopez added that he and his staff “will discuss how best to poll the community and allow for discussion” of pot-related proposals in his ward.
Other aldermen who are considering cannabis applications have run into similar hold-ups owing to the difficulty of gauging community support in the middle of a pandemic.
Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22) told The Daily Line he asked to hold a proposal by Janusz Barsh and Sebastian Barsh to open a grow site at 4243 W. Ogden Ave. while he looks for a way “to get that group in front of some community members,” he said.
Aldermen are also waiting for guidance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which must independently approve each dispensary and grow-site, over whether virtual community meetings would be considered valid. City code requires each cannabis applicant to convene a public meeting in the same ward where it is being proposed.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) put a hold on a proposal to open a dispensary at 1720 N. Damen Ave. in his ward until “we know how to fulfill the public meeting requirement,” according to Paul Sajovec, Waguespack’s chief of staff.
The Northwest Side alderman “wants to have neighborhood groups review them and do as much as we can, but hold off on changing the zoning until we know there is a potential path forward” through the zoning board, Sajovec wrote in an email to The Daily Line.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment about the zoning board’s policy.
Ald. Matt Martin (47) has also put the brakes on a proposal by Dispensary 33 to expand its shop at 5001 N. Clark St. while it looks for a way to convene a public meeting and awaits guidance from the zoning board.
However, Ald. Walter Burnett (27) the owners of Dispensary 33 are moving forward with a virtual community meeting for their proposed dispensary at 1152 W. Randolph St. The same company withdrew their application for a dispensary at 1132 W. Fulton Market, Burnett said.
Developer Warren Baker requested to defer two dispensary proposals that were on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, at 2017 N. Mendell St. in the 2nd Ward and 1842 W. Webster Ave. in the 32nd Ward.
Tuesday’s meeting of the zoning committee will mark the body’s first virtual meeting, and the first time it has met since March 16. The March meeting was the last time aldermen met publicly and in person.
Tribune East to be considered
The committee is also set to approve a $700 million proposal (O2020-94) from developers CIM Group and Golub & Company to build a 1,422-foot skyscraper with 764 combined condos, apartments and hotel rooms at 421 N. Michigan Ave. The project, dubbed Tribune East, would be the city’s second-tallest tower if completed next to the historic Tribune Tower.
Tribune East was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission during its May 8 meeting. The developers said they aim to break ground on the tower in late 2021.
The committee is scheduled to approve two other items already given the nod by the Plan Commission earlier this month: a proposal (O2019-7969) to expand the campus of DePaul College Prep High School and a request (O2020-785) by Riverside Investment & Development to slightly raise the planned height of BMO Tower at 320 S. Canal St.
Finally on Tuesday, aldermen are scheduled to discuss an ordinance (O2019-8529) that would require all Chicago homes by 2023 to have smoke detectors with batteries designed to last at least 10 years. The ordinance already passed out of the zoning committee in March, but aldermen requested more discussion of the proposal before it is referred to the full City Council for final approval.
Hannah Alani of Block Club Chicago contributed reporting.