CITY HALL — An indoor weed farm plans to open near Pullman on the South Side, but who will operate the business has yet to be decided.
The 14,000-square-foot facility, located at 1050 E. 95th St. in the Burnside neighborhood just north of Pullman, would be developed by DL3 Realty. The zoning change it needs to open was approved by the Committee on Zoning Thursday.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) deferred the measure last month to allow for more community input. Harris was not present on Thursday but has said she supports the project.
The proposal will next head to the full City Council Wednesday for approval.
Leon Walker, who leads DL3 Realty, is seeking a social-equity applicant to operate the indoor weed farm. He did not say if he has a specific tenant lined up for the space.
Rolando Acosta, the zoning attorney representing DL3 Realty, said it’s possible Walker himself will be part of the team that applies for the craft grow license needed to operate the facility.
“He could become [an owner] depending on what happens when we select the operator,” he said.
Acosta said DL3 is searching for a Black-led group who could apply for a craft grow license from the state to operate at the facility.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture will begin accepting applications for craft grower licenses on Feb. 14, which are due no later than March 16. The department will issue up to 40 licenses state-wide by July 1. Another 60 can be doled out by December 2021.
The applications will be scored by the department using a 1,000 point scale, with 200 points available only to those who qualify as a social equity applicant.
To qualify for social equity status the applicant must satisfy one of three criteria:
- at least 51% ownership by one or more individuals who have resided for at least five of the previous five years in a Disproportionately Impacted Area (communities that have been most affected by the war on drugs
- at least 51% ownership by one or more individuals who themselves or a family member that have arrested, or convicted for any offense that is eligible for expungement under the Cannabis regulation or Tax Act
- has at least 10 full-time employees and at least 51% of those currently reside in a DIA or would qualify under the second provision
At the city’s Cannabis Resource Fair, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her cannabis advisor Paul Stewart encouraged the thousands in attendance to look beyond dispensary ownership as the only way to create wealth in the industry. Craft grow facilities require less capital to open, but unlike their larger cultivation center counterparts, the law also allows for a weed dispensary to co-locate in the building.
However, Acosta said that is not in the plans for the location.
“Under the city’s zoning ordinance you can co-locate an accessory dispensary, which is defined as no bigger than 3,000 square feet, but we have committed to the community that that would not happen here, this is pure production,” he said.
Acosta told the committee the project could create 30 to 40 jobs and is hoping to partner with nearby Chicago State University.
“They have a cannabis education program, we’re trying to link this facility with their program to create a center for employment,” he said.
The eventual operator will need to apply for a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Other weed proposals
While the craft grow site was given the greenlight on Thursday, a proposal that would provide Logan Square residents a second spot to buy legal weed in the neighborhood was delayed.
PharmaCann, a large Chicago-based cannabis company, had their necessary zoning change for 2551 N. Milwaukee Ave., the old Logan Square State and Savings Bank building, deferred in the zoning committee on Thursday by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
Paul Sajovec, Waguespack’s chief of staff, said that the item was delayed in order for PharmaCann to hold a community meeting on the project. The City’s cannabis zoning law mandates dispensaries to hold a community meeting in advance of seeking a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Sajovec said that rather than have a separate meeting for the zoning change and another for the special use permit, Ald. Waguespack asked the cannabis company to hold one meeting. No date for that meeting has been scheduled.
Jeremy Unruh, co-founder and director of public and regulatory affairs for the company, said the delay doesn’t change the companies plans for the dispensary.
“We have been working with the alderman’s staff to ensure our impact on the community, and the efficiency with which we navigate this process, is as smooth as possible,” he said. “…So, if we can be efficient with our neighbors’ time, then hopefully they’ll appreciate it.”
Also on Thursday, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) inserted himself into the community process needed to potentially open a dispensary at three locations in his ward.
Tunney, in his authority as an alderman, introduced three ordinances for 1256-58 W Belmont Ave., 1122-1126 W Eddy St., and 3235 N. Lakewood Ave. that will require any cannabis business to obtain a zoning change at City Council before they are able to head to the Zoning Board of Appeals for approval to open at the locations.
“The special use is independent of the aldermen. [The change] gives the community a tool to be able to do the right kind of planning,” he said.
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