Committee defers hearing on bid for marijuana dispensary
by BRIAN NADIG
The City Council Committee on Zoning at its Jan. 13 meeting deferred a hearing on a proposed medical marijuana dispensary at 4739 W. Montrose Ave. and approved a retail-residential project at Lawrence and Austin avenues.
At issue is the future of a 4,270-square-foot parking lot at 4720 W. Pensacola Ave., which reportedly was used by a former occupant of the proposed dispensary site. It is not clear if the 12-space parking lot, which runs along a side street, would be part of the dispensary project.
The dispensary would operate in a recently renovated warehouse that was once occupied by Air-Mite Devices, a maker of air presses and cylinders used by manufacturers in assembly lines. Access to the parking lot, which is next to a house, is from a side alley that runs between Pensacola and Montrose.
Alderman John Arena (45th) sought the deferral because he wants project officials to supply more information about possible plans for the parking lot, according to Arena’s director of economic development Anthony Alfano. County records show that the same trust has a mortgage on the warehouse and the parking lot.
The zoning applicant, Harborside Illinois Growth Medicine, is seeking to have the 8,975-square-foot warehouse rezoned from M1-1 to C2-3, which would eliminate parking requirements for the project. The dispensary would be permitted in a more restrictive classification, such as C1-1, but that could require up to 13 parking spaces.
The committee’s agenda stated that the project does not include on-site parking, and there is no mention of the parking lot on Pensacola. A dispensary is not allowed under the existing manufacturing classification but is allowed under C2 zoning, which also allows heavy equipment rental and outdoor car sales.
A resident who lives in the Triangle neighborhood behind the warehouse said that the parking lot, which is zoned for manufacturing use, should be downzoned for single-family use to protect the neighborhood from unwanted uses on the site.
In addition to plans for the parking lot, other details about the project were not included in the standard information packet that the alderman requires all zoning applicants in the ward to supply his office, Alfano said. After all the information is provided, the alderman will hold a community meeting on the project before making his recommendation to the Zoning Committee, he said.
If the zoning change is approved, project officials would then have to seek a special use permit from the city Zoning Board of Appeals. Under some classifications, the zoning code requires a special use for businesses, including taverns and liquor stores, which typically raise concerns among residents.
There are four medical marijuana dispensary licenses being sought for locations in the 45th Ward. Under state law, no more that two dispensary licenses can be issued in all of Jefferson Township, which includes the Northwest Side and extends as far east as Western Avenue and as far south as North Avenue.
Also at the meeting, the committee approved the rezoning of a 48,500-square-foot vacant parcel at southwest corner of Austin and Lawrence avenues to allow construction of three six-flats and a four-story building with 24 residential units and 6,270 square feet of retail space. A similar four-story building was constructed on a parcel located immediately south of the site 3 years ago.
The vacant parcel, where a Ponderosa Steakhouse was once located, is being rezoned from RS-2, which is intended for single-family homes, to RT-4 for the six-flats and to B2-3 for the mixed-use building. The project would include 52 parking spaces.
Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) said that he expects the City Council to approve the zoning proposal at its Jan. 21meeting. A previous developer for the project turned the property over to the financial institution holding the mortgage for the property several years ago, and, according to Cullerton, the bank has lined up new developers who are willing to purchase the property once the zoning is approved.