Expansion of Columbia Care cannabis dispensary moving forward
by BRIAN NADIG
The proposed expansion of the Columbia Care Illinois medical and recreational marijuana dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Jefferson Park appears to be moving forward after Alderman James Gardiner (45th) announced his support for the project.
"Based upon the feedback from the community, I think it would be a welcome addition to bring more tax revenue, more jobs and more business to our Milwaukee corridor," Gardiner said after a Feb. 11 virtual community meeting on the proposal.
No objections were raised at the meeting and several residents praised Columbia Care’s current operations. The dispensary opened in 2016 for medical marijuana sales, and in 2020 it began selling marijuana for recreational uses.
Resident Susanna Ernst said that Columbia Care has been "a good neighbor and has been engaging with community groups. We are appreciative of that." She added that the expansion would generate more foot traffic for a business which has struggled to fill vacant storefronts.
Since its opening Columbia has been holding periodic seminars about the state’s changing marijuana laws at Weston’s Coffee and Tap, 4872 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The expansion would lead to eight additional jobs at the dispensary, with a starting pay of $16.20 an hour, paid vacation and sick days, and healthcare coverage, said Columbia Care vice president of corporate affairs Adam Goers.
The project also is expected to increase the monthly tax revenue generated by the dispensary from $88,175 to $189,677, as the sales area would more than double, Goers said. He added that the project also calls for the installation of an ADA entrance and the planting of two trees in front of the dispensary.
Under the proposal, the dispensary would include a neighboring storefront at 4760 N. Milwaukee Ave., but the property must be rezoned from B3-2 to C2-2 and then a special use permit to establish a medical and adult use dispensary must be obtained from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
A special use for medical marijuana sales was issued about 5 years ago for Columbia’s current facility, and at the time city officials said that additional zoning relief would be required if recreational sales were to become legal in Illinois and if Columbia were to seek a recreational license.
Several years later when recreational sales became legal, the state law allowed existing medical dispensaries to obtain a recreational license without having to seek a zoning change or a new special use. However, those special accommodations do not apply for an expansion or relocation.
Columbia Care market director Andrew Bayly said that as part of the zoning process he has been reaching out to community groups. "From talking with (residents), we haven’t had any negative impact on the community," he said.