By Joe Boyle
Hickory Hills opened the door slightly for a cannabis dispensary to operate within the city limits, but only under tight restrictions.
A motion was approved last Thursday night to amend a zoning ordinance to provide for the siting and regulation of a cannabis dispensary. The board approved the measure by a 5-3 margin. Aldermen Mike McHugh (1 st), Joseph Stachnik (4 th) and Scott Zimmerman (4 th) opposed the ordinance.
Voting for the ordinance were Aldermen Brian Waight (1 st), Deborah Ferrero (2 nd), Patrick Purtill (2 nd), Brian Fonte (3 rd) and Henry Kman (3 rd).
A dispensary, if approved by the board, could only operate in a C3 zoning district east of 78 th Avenue and has to be a free-standing building. According to the ordinance, the dispensary cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school.
The board approved the measure that would allow a dispensary to operate in a limited range east of 78 th Avenue to 76 th Street.
“Under the ordinance regulations, only one dispensary can operate in the city, if it is approved,” said Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley. “A general consensus by the board would have to take place before allowing a dispensary.”
Some board members asked what specific restrictions will be applied to cannabis use. Howley said it would be no different than alcohol. No one can drive while under the influence of cannabis. That also means no one can smoke or consume cannabis in restaurants or other public institutions.
“It would be kind of like stopping at a pharmacy,” Howley said. “You would pick it up and take it home. It cannot be consumed or smoked at (the dispensary) or on the premises of a public building.”
Many municipalities are considering allowing for dispensaries to open in their communities due to the reported boost in revenue that could take place from cannabis sales. The city would also receive revenue from the sales tax through the state for allowing a dispensary to operate with the borders of the municipality. Hickory Hills would receive a percentage of the three percent tax collected in Springfield.
“I have heard reports that some communities will take in $150,000 or it could be as high as $300,000 more a year due to cannabis sales,” Howley said. “I don’t know about that. That’s just what I heard.”
Resident Judy Schramm said her concerns are due to what could be a heavier flow of traffic in the community due to the addition of a dispensary.
“My concern is parking,” Schramm said. “I don’t want to see a lack of parking in residential areas because of this. I hope that is taken into consideration.”
City Attorney Vince Cainkar said the parking issue has been discussed and it will not be a problem.
Howley pointed out that a dispensary would not have been considered if not for the revenue.
“If it was not for the revenue and pension issue, I don’t think that the board would be considering it,” the mayor said. “And the state is giving less money toward municipalities. We have to consider all this.”
The board unanimously approved the ordinance of special use purpose for a Ricky Rocket Fuel Travel Center, which will be located at 7717 W. 95 th St., once the site of the Lexington House. The facility will include a gas station, convenience store, car wash and commercial strip center.
The property will have 11 video gaming machines and will offer package sales of liquor. Howley mentioned at last month’s meeting that no alcohol will be consumed at the facility. This is the sixth location for Ricky Rocket Fuel Travel Center, with Midlothian and Hoffman Estates having centers. The mayor had talked to officials from Hoffman Estates who had complimentary opinions on the business.
Board members were concerned during last month’s meeting of possible traffic congestion along 95th Street due to the addition of Ricky Rocket Fuel Travel Center. Howley said that further travel studies will be completed and submitted to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for review.
The Hickory Hills Police Department added another police officer during last Thursday’s meeting. Vincenzo Rimmele, 23, was sworn in as a probationary police officer. He grew up in Hickory Hills and attended Queen of Martyrs Elementary School and Brother Rice High School.
Howley and other board members praised the efforts of Sue Lehr, the city’s public works director, for having her department put up holiday decorations throughout Hickory Hills, including the park next to the City Hall lot.
“I mean I must say I’ve seen parents walking through with their kids and pointing out the decorations,” Howley said. “I’ve just seen people waking by and staring. It really is impressive and makes people feel good.”
The first Hickory Hills City Council meeting of the new year will take place on Thursday, Jan. 9.