VILLAGE OF NORTH AURORA
PLAN COMMISSION MEETING MINUTES
SEPTEMBER 3, 2019
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Brackett called the meeting to order.
In attendance: Chairman Mike Brackett, Co-Chairman Jennifer Duncan, Commissioners, Mark Rivecco, Anna Tuohy, Aaron Anderson, Tom Lenkart, Mark Bozik and Doug Botkin. Not in attendance: Commissioner Connie Holbrook.
Also in attendance: Village Administrator Steve Bosco, Community & Economic Development Director Mike Toth, Village Attorney Kevin Drendel, Village Clerk Lori Murray, Police Chief Dave Fisher, Mayor Dale Berman.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
1. Approval of Plan Commission Minutes dated June 4, 2019
Motion for approval made by Commissioner Bozik and seconded by Commissioner Tuohy. All in favor. Motion approved.
1. Petition #19-06 (345 Sullivan Road ) The petitioner requests the following actions on
the subject property
Chairman Brackett opened the public hearing. Those who planned to address the committee stood and swore to tell the truth.
a. Map amendment to rezone the subject property from the O-R Office Research District to the B-2 General Business District
b. Special Use to allow an Animal Hospital and Veterinary Clinic
Community & Economic Development Director Mike Toth said that the petitioner was before the Plan Commission in April. The property being discussed at that time was 361 Sullivan Road. The petitioner is now looking at is 345 Sullivan Road. The request is to rezone the property from O-R District to the B-2 District and a special use to allow for a veterinary dental clinic. This time they are using the existing property with no changes and no parking variance. Staff recommended approval per the two conditions of the staff report, which includes no overnight boarding of animals and that any dumpsters be enclosed.
Dr. Stephen Juriga, owner of River Heights Veterinary Hospital in Oswego, addressed the commissioners. Dr. Juriga said he would like to move his referral veterinary dentistry business to North Aurora. The building and parking lot better suits their needs. Toth said that the required parking would be 11 off-street spaces and there are 29 off-street parking spaces located on site.
There were no comments from the audience. Chairman Brackett then closed the public portion of the hearing.
Commissioner Rivecco asked if there is an outdoor area for pets to be relieved. Dr. Juriga said that there will be an 8-10 foot gravel area that may be fenced in.
Commissioner Tuohy asked where the dumpster would be located. Dr. Juriga said that it is by the sidewalk near the property at 345 Sullivan Road. It will also be enclosed.
Motion made by Commissioner Lenkart and seconded by Commissioner Anderson to accept the rezoning of the property from the OR District to B2 District and allow a special use per staff’s findings. Roll Call Vote: Botkin – yes, Duncan – yes, Bozik – yes, Lenkart – yes, Anderson – yes, Tuohy – yes, Rivecco – yes. Motion approved (7-0).
2. Staff would like to solicit feedback from the Plan Commission and general public on
recreational cannabis businesses.
Village Administrator Steve Bosco stated that the State of Illinois recently passed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act which goes into effect January 1st. It will allow for possession and consumption of small amounts of cannabis throughout the state of Illinois. In the act, it gives local municipalities the ability to ban the sales of marijuana in their communities or allow it and zone it into certain districts with regulations. The ban is not banning use of marijuana in the community, just the sale. It can still be possessed or consumed in the community.
This was discussed before the Village Board and there was an interest in allowing recreational sales. The thought was to give it to the Plan Commission with the idea of being able to solicit comments; feedback and public input; and go through zoning channels. It would then go back to the Village Board before a final decision is made.
Local representatives from the village’s medical marijuana facility, PharmaCann, were present. They operate in town and their company is involved in recreational sales in other states.
Bosco noted that medical marijuana dispensaries are the first group that get the right to have a recreational dispensary in Illinois. PharmaCann has submitted a letter to the village that they would like to have a cohabitated location in which they would sell both medical and recreational marijuana. Bosco said that there are multiple types of cannabis businesses that are laid out in the law. Bosco and Toth recommended the village generally regulate those other uses other than recreational dispensaries in the I-2 General Industrial District as a special use.
There has already been a Committee of the Whole review and the Plan Commission review is this evening. The goal would be to take the workshop information and bring it back to the October Plan Commission meeting with draft provisions, followed by the Committee of the Whole meeting in October. After village board discussion, it would go to the November Village Board meeting for a vote.
Chairman Brackett asked about the connection between PharmaCann and Verilife since both are referenced. Bosco said that PharmaCann and Verilife are one in the same. They are possibly being acquired by another company, which they will explain further into the presentation.
Bosco explained that by May 1st, the state is looking to list 75 recreational licenses. By the beginning of 2021, they want to have 110 recreational dispensing organization licenses active.
Anyone 21 and over will be able to possess small amounts, 30 grams or about an ounce, of cannabis. Possession will be permissible in motor vehicles. If they are buying it at a location, they need to be able to transport it back to a place where they can use it. The law says you have to use it at a private residence. If you are a licensed cannabis business, you have the ability to allow consumption at your store. Bosco noted that PharmaCann is not interested in having consumption on premises. The village board, at their meeting, immediately indicated that they also had no interest in allowing consumption on premises. Staff also recommended not allowing consumption on premises.
Taxes: The state will have the local state tax, and then there will be an additional tax on each product which is based on the level of THC in the product. Counties and municipalities will have the option to place an additional tax. Bosco said that every product will be taxed between 20% and 40%, depending on what you buy.
The medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed in the Compassionate Care Act. There are 55 medical cannabis dispensaries which serve 46,000 medical patients.
The current medical marijuana dispensary is allowed as a permitted use in business, office and industrial districts. Under the Compassionate Act it puts a buffer on locations at 1000 feet from schools, playgrounds and daycares. Bosco noted that is important because the current law has some ambiguity in it. It says that a recreational dispensary cannot advertise cannabis products 1000 feet from the same aforementioned places. However, it does not say that they cannot locate a business within a 1000 feet of those locations. The village decided that if you cannot advertise within 1000 feet, we assume that the buffer will apply. The staff will require a 1000 foot buffer for zoning.
There are two major departments of the state that regulate the cannabis businesses. The Agricultural Department oversees the cultivators and growers. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulations will oversee the dispensaries. The Village is looking at the legality of a non-home rule community, such as North Aurora, for acquiring a license. If a business violates any of the village’s local restrictions, the village can pull the license.
Recreational Cannabis State Operational Requirements (already in the law):
• They cannot be within 1500 feet from pre-existing dispensaries.
• They cannot advertise within 1000 feet from schools or daycares. Cannot have drive-thrus or vending machines. Cannot offer delivery. There has to be two people working at all times.
• They can’t sell if cameras are not working, if point of sale computer equipment is not working or if the state electronic verification system is not working.
• They may operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time (village may make reasonably stricter).
• Can only accept deliveries in a restricted area.
DUI Enforcement – driving under the influence of cannabis is prohibited. Currently there is no standard test for roadside detection of marijuana use. Chief Fisher said that testing would be in the form of a blood or urine test. A urine test can be done at a police department. A blood test would need to be done at a hospital. Bosco noted that the state is working to expunge criminal records for prior marijuana offenses.
State Security Requirements
• Facility has to have the product locked in a limited access area.
• Cannot allow people to loiter.
• Policy to get people in and out of the facility quickly.
• Proper disposal of unused cannabis per the cannabis act.
• Cannabis to be kept in restricted areas only.
• Must have security/alarm requirements and a security plan.
• Interior and exterior lighting, breakproof glass, video surveillance and high definition cameras.
• Reinforced vault to store money and cannabis products when the facility is closed.
Local Control – Zoning
Villages can opt out of allowing cannabis businesses or can allow with zoning restrictions.
The village was able to get municipal feedback from communities in Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington. In Wareham, MA they had six or seven police officers assisting traffic during the first week of sales since there was such a demand.
Commissioner Bozik asked what would happen if a new business, which requires the buffer from the cannabis business, moves in after the cannabis dispensary is already in place. Community & Economic Development Director Mike Toth said that the dispensary would have the right to stay. The buffers are reviewed at the time of application.
Commissioner Lenkart asked what the village would get in tax revenue dollars. Bosco said that we don’t know exactly what the numbers would be, but it could possibly be a half million dollars per year. In Wareham, MA the 3% sales tax generated $300,000 in the first six months.
Commissioner Duncan said there is so much addressing security, fear and criminality associated with this type of business. Isn’t it the same concept as alcohol? However, this is being treated very differently than alcohol. Duncan said she was curious about what the state was thinking. Attorney Drendel said there is less local control with cannabis than with alcohol. Toth said at the Committee of the Whole discussion it was noted that cannabis is not being recognized federally.
Commissioner Bozik asked if this will affect the village getting federal grants by going against federal law. Bosco said he has not heard anything about this being an issue. Bosco said it is not something that is a village decision as it has already been legalized by the state.
Tuohy asked if this is still a Schedule 1 narcotic. Answer was yes. Tuohy asked if this is a cash business. Bosco said that PharmaCann will address how this is run in other states.
Tuohy asked what the other communities around North Aurora doing? Bosco said that Naperville originally said they were going to ban it and has since opened up conversations to discuss zoning it. St. Charles has a medical dispensary. They went to two operational committees and was directed to bring it to zoning with the ability to zone no more than two recreational dispensaries in town. Batavia’s mayor is strongly against but there may be interest by the alderman to discuss it further. Atty. Drendel said that public discussions are ongoing and the jury is still out. Bosco said what he read in the paper was that if the Batavia council approve it, the mayor said he would veto the decision, requiring them to override him with a super majority in order to enact it. A lot of the communities are just discussing this. What makes the village unique is that we already have a medical dispensary and they have already informed us they are interested in recreational sales.
At this time, representatives of PharmaCann addressed the Plan Commission:
• Matt Levine, Director of Marketing (Pharmacan)
• Don Williams, Regional Director for MedMen Enterprises
• Mike Richards, Pharmacan, heads outreach and hospitality
• Katrina McGuire – land use legal expert
Matt Levine stated that PharmaCann and Verilife are one company. PharmaCann is the parent company. All dispensary names have been converted to Verilife. It was announced last October that MedMen, a public cannabis company out of California, is acquiring PharmaCann.
Levine said that there are a lot of myths about cannabis such as the relationship of teen use and marijuana, property values going down, crime and security problems. Levine said he has talked to a lot of law enforcement of the last 5 years. In 2013 and 2014 he discussed the issue with law enforcement and a vast majority were very supportive of the program. All of them had no doubt there would be violent crimes. However, there has been none of that.
Cash element – banking is an issue. It is less of an issue with businesses like PharmaCann as they are more sophisticated. In terms of cash, we have secure cash pickup systems. There is a process with security and police to transfer cash to the bank. Average transaction is $75 – $150 worth of product when they leave the store.
Gateway drug theory – The addiction rate of cannabis is significantly less when compared to alcohol.
Don Williams of MedMen provided information regarding their company. MedMen is in the process of acquiring PharmaCann. MedMen is the largest cannabis company in North America. Founded in 2010, it operates in 12 states across the U.S. and is publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange. MedMen does everything from cultivation, dispensing and manufacturing. Williams said they are primarily a retailer and looking to mainstreaming and normalizing marijuana.
Mike Richards of PharmaCann addressed the commission regarding store operations. Richards has been with PharmaCann for four years. Richards said that the company strongly focuses on community outreach, education, safety and security. Patients are greeted at the desk and have to provide identification. They have to be 21+ years of age. Customers are carded at entry and at point of sale. The business provides private consultation rooms and patient care representatives are available to discuss conditions with its customers. There is a 24-hour community liaison to field phone calls and answer questions. PharmaCann is also involved in volunteer programs, open houses and cannabis workshops. In terms of security, cannabis and money is kept in locked vaults. There is also 24-hour surveillance, remote access to the local police department and alarm systems.
Commissioner Duncan asked if they would be able to start January 1st where the general businessman can’t. Answer was yes. Duncan asked if they would need to keep the medical cannabis business separate from recreational. Answer was that by law the medical product has to be separate. Customers will be in the same building whether they are there for medical or recreational, but there will be separate point of sale areas.
Commissioner Bozik asked about the role of the local police for their business in Wareham. Levine said that they still have officers on site, but a private company does the actual transporting of money and products. Chief Fisher said he has spoken with the police chief in Wareham who has provided a lot of information. Commissioner Bozik asked if PharmaCann pays for the police on site. Levin said yes. Bozik asked about the average number of incidents at the facility in North Aurora. Fisher said there has been no criminal activity there and they have been very good neighbors.
Commissioner Botkin asked if their products are standardized across the country. Answer was because of the federal legality, none of the products can cross state lines. The current 21 medical growers in the state can sell to the Illinois dispensaries. Products will be standardized for the dispensaries in Illinois. Screening is state specific and every single product that goes out is tested and regulated by the Department of Agriculture.
Lenkart asked if the petitioner is looking to move to the Clocktower location. Levine said that is one location. Lenkart said if average sale is $75 – $150, does the business red flag someone who buys large amounts or comes in frequently. Answer was that it is tracked and regulated by the state.
Commissioner Anderson said that from a land use perspective, there was a reference to managing your queue. Will there be a pre-order line and a regular line? Will there be a huge rush of people? Would you have people waiting inside the dispensary or outside? Don Williams said that they will overstaff that store to its needs. Everything is designed to get the customer in and out in a timely manner. Customers may take a little more time at first, but technology will assist for future visits since customers will already be in the system. The plan is to overstaff for the first six months. Online orders are also allowed.
Tuohy asked if they are integrated with the state for tracking. Levine said that the state tracking system in Illinois is called Biotrack. On the business side, we can also use Biotrack which is a POS system, but we use another system that we custom made. NAV, our Microsoft based platform, speaks directly to Biotrack. Bosco said this came up at the board level and we have not seen anything about purchasing frequency or the amount you can buy. It just says you cannot possess any more than a particular amount. Bosco said he assumes what will happen is when they come out with the actual regulations and talk about tracking, it will also note the frequency. Tuohy asked how this ties in with the privacy act. Will an adult consumer be able to delete their information through privacy acts? Don Williams said the statute addresses that. We cannot do anything with customer information. Levine said he would check into whether or not a person could delete their information from the system.
Tuohy asked, in terms of 24/7 support, if the company would be partnering with law enforcement for complaints? Answer: In Illinois, local and state police get a live look into the facility.
Tuohy asked if there would be any other support systems, such as assisting a person who is struggling with addiction. Levine said that there is not a structured support system, but customer service reps are trained to identify these issues.
Tuohy asked if the DARE program would address marijuana. Chief Fisher said that the DARE program is a set curriculum and doesn’t address it at this point. It is put together by the state and assumes they will do the same with legalized marijuana as they do with alcohol.
Tuohy asked who would be monitoring those who might be loitering in the area. Levine said they would and that there will be one person sitting at one desk and watching interior and exterior monitors. Cameras will cover a 360 view and there will be no blind spots in the interior. The local police can also tap into the company system at any time.
Commissioner Rivecco asked how many customers they have a day in the NA facility. Levine said about 100. With the additional for recreational, it would possibly be 500. This number would thin out over time. There will be a spike in the beginning and as more stores open up and there is less excitement about it, that number would decline.
Lenkart noted that MedMen are in the process of purchasing the company. Would it be realistic for them to accomplish this by January 1st? Levine said that whether the deal closes or not by the end of the year, the two companies are already working together.
Anderson asked if there are any studies showing the economic impact the adult use dispensary brings to stimulating business. Levine said he was not aware of any studies but will look into it. In towns like Wareham, which is on the list of economically depressed municipalities in Massachusetts, feedback was that it is bustling in the downtown area.
Duncan asked if they are limited to being in North Aurora or can you go anywhere in Illinois. Answer was that they could go anywhere, but feasibly it would not be good because of the process. Legally we are not restricted from moving to another municipality. Williams said we are technically limited to the medical district we are in today and therefore limited in the area we could move.
Bozik asked if they will be selling accessories or just cannabis. Answer was that they are selling devices as well, noting that ancillary products make up less than 1% of sales.
If they are not ready with a new location by January 1st, they will be at their Route 31 location as a medical and recreational facility.
Katrina McGuire, Thompson Coburn (zoning counsel for PharmCann) said that the medical facilities are given first opportunity to open a recreational site. The effective date was in July since that was when the governor signed. No one can sell until January 1st. PharmaCann has already applied for all of their co-located sites.
PUBLIC COMMENT – None
Workshop for zoning in North Aurora
Mike Toth addressed the Plan Commission regarding zoning in North Aurora. Toth said that we can look at what St. Charles has done by placing a limit the number of dispensaries. St. Charles is placing a limit on the number of dispensaries at two – one on each side of the Fox River. There are also buffer requirements. A medical site is required to have a 1000 foot buffer from schools, parks and daycares. North Aurora allows medical sales in all nonresidential districts as a permitted use. Cultivation centers as a special use in the I-2 District. It was mentioned that craft growers should be filtered into the I-2 District as a special use. The other uses can be lumped together as a special use in the I-2 District.
Lenkart asked how many possible locations the village could have. Bosco said the village could possibly have 4 or 5. Bozik said that with the buffers and amount of competition, the number of businesses will regulate itself. Chairman Brackett asked each commissioner if he/she wanted to limit or not limit the number of businesses. Botkin – limit, Bozik – no limit, Duncan – limit, Lenkart – no limit, Anderson – no limit, Tuohy – limit, Rivecco – no limit.
Bosco said staff recommends special use. The Plan Commission recommended special use in all of the industrial, business and ORI districts.
Toth asked if the commission wanted to require buffers. Rivecco suggested leaving it the same as the medical cannabis facilities.
Duncan suggested regulating architectural design. Toth said the village can address this in the special use process.
Toth asked if the Plan Commission wanted to add any additional use standards: hours of operation, security.
PharmaCann said that their business hours in other states are 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Toth said that staff recommended 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Chief Fisher said his concern was with security and how they operate their business. With what he has seen tonight, he is satisfied with those types of measures that were explained, such as security, cameras, and vaults.
Toth said that they will bring this back with some of the recommendations, advertise the hearing and come back before the Plan Commission.
NEW BUSINESS – None
OLD BUSINESS – None
PLAN COMMISSIONER COMMENTS AND PROJECT UPDATES
Dental office on Randall Road – Toth said that staff met with the owners, plumbing and building inspectors, Fox Metro Water Reclamation, builders and architect.
Chipmunk Brewery – He has applied for a liquor license but no permit yet. Still moving forward.
Motion for approval made by Commissioner Lenkart and seconded by Commissioner Botkin. All in favor. Motion approved.
Lori J. Murray