Aurora set to decide on zoning for marijuana facility requests

November 19, 2014

The Aurora City Council will decide next week if four requests for medical marijuana facilities in the city meet zoning and special use guidelines.

The Planning Commission and the council’s Planning and Development Committee already have decided they do. And the council, as a Committee of the Whole Thursday, passed the requests onto the full council.

It will take a final vote by the council to award the special uses to the four petitioners, which include one new company and two other companies that have licenses for medical marijuana facilities in other states.

The city can award special uses for as many applicants as they want. Any final decisions on medical marijuana licenses for dispensaries or cultivation facilities will be awarded by the state, in accordance with their requirements.

The companies requesting special uses for dispensing facilities and the locations are: PharmaCann LLC, 1056 N. Route 59, in the 10th Ward; Curative Health LLC, 929 N. Lake St., in the 6th Ward; and Harborside Illinois Grown Medicine Inc., 1271 N. Lake St., also in the 6th Ward.

Curative Health Cultivation LLC is also requesting a special use for a marijuana cultivation facility at 2229 Diehl Road, in the 10th Ward.

Pharmacann is a new company that has been around for about eight or nine months. Their application on Route 59 – in the DuPage County part of Aurora – is in a three-unit retail building that also includes the restaurant O Mango. There are other retail and service uses in the area.

Aurora’s zoning rules show that a medical marijuana facility can get a special use in any B-2 or B-3 zoning district in the city. But Alderman Lynne Johnson, 10th Ward, suggested that the facility would be better suited for an area with other medical uses.

"The concerns I’ve been getting from the business community are very strong," she said.

PharmaCann officials told aldermen their facility will be more like a medical office, or a pharmacy. Issues such as security are strictly controlled by the state.

"We’re not a head shop," the petitioner said. "This is medical cannabis, not recreational. This is a pilot program, so it’s very important to all of us applying that we get this right. Our feeling has been if the state says jump a foot high, we jump two feet high."

The petitioners added they will have very little signage, and liked the Route 59 location because of its accessibility to patients.

Curative Health has been selling medical marijuana for 2½ years, with one cultivation center in Washington, D.C., and two dispensaries in Arizona. They also have received a license in Massachusetts, two licenses in Nevada and have two more facilities under construction in Washington, D.C.

"We hope to be able to bring to Aurora a very professional organization," said Nick Vita, vice chairman of Curative Health.

The Curative Health dispensary is proposed for a building that most recently was a Rental Max on North Lake Street.

Harborside Illinois Grown Medicine is part of a company that has been selling medical marijuana in California since 2006. James Vasselli, a partner in Del Galdo Law Group, representing Harborside, said the company is, by patient, the largest medical marijuana facility in the country, and the second-largest taxpayer in the city of Oakland, Calif.

They are proposing to put their facility into a former restaurant building on Lake Street that has been vacant for some time. Vasselli pointed out that the facility would be just down the street from a Walgreens pharmacy, and not too far from the Mercy Center medical campus.

"We believe this is a perfect location for this," he said.

Alayne Weingartz, Aurora’s corporation counsel, pointed out that the city must approve facilities that meet zoning requirements. The state’s Department of Public Health and Finance and Professional Regulation will license decisions on all applicants.

The state will approve a maximum of 60 dispensaries throughout the state, or less, dispersed geographically. Kane County will get two dispensary licenses, and there are 14 applications in the county right now. DuPage has had 22 applications.

The potential for a facility in Aurora got an endorsement from Mayor Tom Weisner, who admitted he was "skeptical" of the industry until he looked into it more. He said medical marijuana is used by people who need it for a number of chronic, painful conditions.

"Families have gone through hell trying to find pain relief," he said. "These are people who are very ill, and have serious needs."

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