Board delays medical marijuana hearing at Napolitano’s request; ward polls trend against project
by BRIAN NADIG
The Zoning Board of Appeals at its May 28 meeting continued a hearing on a proposed medical marijuana dispensary near the Milwaukee-Devon intersection after Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) requested the delay.
The zoning board rescheduled the hearing for its meeting on Friday, Aug. 21.
In polls conducted of ward residents, about 72 percent of the 800 respondents opposed the opening of a dispensary inside a former medical supply store at 6428 N. Milwaukee Ave., said Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio. The polling includes an automated telephone survey and an e-mail blast sent to parents at Onahan School, which is the closest school to the site of the proposed dispensary, Vittorio said.
“In all fairness to the (medical marijuana) company, that is a small sampling,” Vittorio said. “We’d like more time to get the residents involved.”
About 100 residents attended a meeting on the project which the Norwood Park Chamber of Commerce hosted on May 19, and two additional community meetings on the issue are being planned, Vittorio said.
Napolitano has said that he would not want to live next door to a dispensary but that his recommendation to the zoning board would be based on a community consensus and not on his personal opinion. The zoning board acts independently of the City Council, and it is not unusual for the board to go against an alderman’s recommendation.
Representatives of Union Group of Illinois, which would be operating the dispensary, have said that their state license could be in jeopardy if the zoning board does not issue a special use permit for the project by early June. It is believed that Union Group will seek an extension from the state, Vittorio said.
On May 27 phone lines in the ward office were busy with calls from supporters of the proposal, but the callers had not dialed the office’s phone number and had been transferred through a third party, Vittorio said. The calls stopped after Napolitano asked Union Group to have its supporters fill out a survey at the ward office, 7442 N. Harlem Ave., so that staffers could confirm whether they live in the ward, he said.
Some residents have expressed concern that the dispensary would start to sell marijuana for recreational use if that were to become legal, and others have said that a dispensary is not needed in Norwood Park because a planned dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave. is a short drive away. Under state law, no more than two dispensaries are allowed in Jefferson Township, which includes the Northwest Side.
The dispensary would be located across from Caldwell Woods, and some residents at the May 19 meeting expressed concern that patients would smoke their marijuana in the woods.
Project officials said that state law prohibits patients from opening their package of marijuana, which would be available in pills and other forms, until they are home and that the patients would not be looking to create disturbances given their serious health conditions.
Access to the dispensary, which would be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, would be limited to those with a medical marijuana prescription card. Patients would be able to park in a 20-space parking lot planned for a vacant parcel at 6430 N. Milwaukee Ave.