Facing neighbor opposition, cannabis dispensary secures support of Northfield Plan Commission
Northfield is in line to become the latest Chicago suburb to welcome a cannabis dispensary after a positive decision from the village’s plan and zoning commission on Monday, Feb. 28.
The commission advanced a special-use request from Renu IL to build out and operate a dispensary called Bloc at 161 Waukegan Road, the site of Glenview State Bank. The proposal will be in front of the Northfield Village Board on March 15.
The dispensary received a positive recommendation from Village staff. In a memo to the commission, Northfield Director of Community Development Steve Gutierrez wrote that the plans are in line with village requirements and guidelines and were reviewed by the town’s police and fire departments.
Village administration also did a study of dispensaries in nearby communities and according to village documents, noted no negative safety, traffic and parking impacts or neighborhood complaint. Using the study, the Village also predicts it can realize between $325,000 and $650,000 in new revenue from the dispensary.
Monday’s meeting, however, was reportedly attended by numerous interested residents, many of whom represented the Courts of Regent Woods, a residential subdivision just to the south and southeast of the subject property. The Record was unable to attend the meeting.
Representatives for the subdivision — Sheila Mickus and Linda Weinstein, who are presidents of housing associations — wrote a letter to the commission requesting the denial of the dispensary’s application.
Mickus and Weinstein contend that among residents of the Courts at Regent Woods there is “widespread opposition” to the dispensary. The letter expressed concerns over crime, odor, noise, traffic and more.
The letter also explains that the bank property in question was built as an extension of the residential development. Village documents include photos submitted by neighbors to the subject property that show a resident’s view of the facility just beyond a brick border wall.
“We are not aware of any retail cannabis store that is located as part of a residential planned development or located immediately adjacent to homes in the matter proposed by the applicant,” it reads.
In early 2021, the Northfield Village Board voted to allow cannabis dispensaries within town limits under certain conditions, including location in specific commercial districts. Trustees also approved a 3 percent sales tax on cannabis sales.
On Feb. 7 of this year, Renu IL submitted an application to the Village of Northfield to operate a dispensary at 161 Waukegan Road, which is in an approved zoning district, B-1 (community commercial).
Renu IL is an affiliate of Justice Cannabis Company, which operates 10 dispensaries nationwide called BLOC. Five of the locations are in Missouri, three are in Pennsylvania and two are in Utah. According to its application with the Village of Northfield, Renu officials plan for up to 10 BLOC dispensaries in Illinois.
Renu entered a leasing agreement with Northfield Waukegan LLC to occupy the property that has gone unused by the bank since 2020. In its application, Renu called the 3,522-square-foot site at 161 Waukegan Road “well-suited for an operation of this nature.”
While plans do not include demolition, the applicant intends to replace the drive-through portion of the building with parking spaces. Interior renovations are planned to suit the business’s needs, which are extensively regulated by the state of Illinois.
The dispensary plans to have 27 total parking spaces, nearly double the village’s requirement (14). A Village-commissioned traffic study agreed with Renu’s traffic study, according to the village memo.
The application requested the ability for BLOC to operate from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. each day of the week, but the plan commission approved hours of 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sundays. The approved hours are in line with neighboring dispensaries in Skokie (Curaleaf), Evanston (Zen Leaf), Mount Prospect (Enlightened Cannabis) and Highland Park (Zen Leaf).
Annually, Renu believes it can earn between $500,000 and $1 million in revenue a month, an estimate in line with the average annual sales of an Illinois dispensary from June 2020 to June 2021: $8.63 million.
Final plans for the dispensary — including landscaping, signage and materials — must still endure a review from the village’s architectural commission and receive Village Board approval.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319