JEFFERSON PARK — A cannabis dispensary in Jefferson Park is inching closer to its planned expansion to a neighboring storefront.
Columbia Care’s dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave. filed two special use permit applications with the Zoning Board of Appeals earlier this month, the next step for expansion. In February it received zoning approval to expand to the neighboring storefront at 4760 N. Milwaukee Ave.
There now needs to be a community meeting prior to a hearing with the ZBA for the special use permit, according to a city spokesperson and the city’s Cannabis Zoning Ordinance. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.
The recreational and medical dispensary expansion was set back with a series of delays in the City Council because of concerns from the Black Caucus over the lack of Black- and Brown-owned dispensaries. Ultimately, members voted in favor of the expansion.
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th), who supports the expansion in his ward, said at last month’s City Council meeting that while he agrees there needs to be more equity in the cannabis industry, the expansion would create about $2.4 million in annual tax revenue and help bring more business to the Jefferson Park corridor.
In his most recent newsletter announcing the special use permit filings, he emphasized the additional revenue.
“This expansion will now generate over $2 million dollars to the city’s revenue, hopefully leaving less of the burden on homeowners to pay an unnecessary increase in property taxes and allow businesses that are thriving to pay their fair share,” Gardiner wrote.
Similarly, neighbors have backed the expansion and previously told Block Club that it would help revitalize the area, bring in more money and provide more jobs.
“We have issues in this neighborhood with empty storefronts, and [Columbia Care] has been consistently doing business here,” said Maggie Daly Skogsbakken, president of neighborhood group Jefferson Park Forward. “It’s one of the more successful tax-generating businesses we have right now.”
Daly Skogsbakken, who wrote a letter of support for the plan on behalf of her organization to Gardiner, said the dispensary management has been responsive and engaged with the community since opening a few years back.
Nick Davis, owner of Westons Coffee & Tap Co. at 4872 N. Milwaukee Ave., said Columbia Care has been a solid neighbor. Prior to the pandemic, the coffee shop regularly partnered with the dispensary, letting it use his space for interviews, seminars on the state’s changing marijuana laws and neighborhood trivia events.
Davis said he supports the expansion because the dispensary has brought business to the area.
“I am excited for the community and everybody involved,” Davis said of the move forward on expansion. “[Columbia Care] deserves it. The neighborhood deserves it.”
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