EFFINGHAM — The Effingham Plan Commission has set rules and approved a possible location for dispensing adult-use recreational cannabis, but the Effingham City Council will have the final say next week.

With construction already underway in the suite next to the medical marijuana dispensary The Clinic Effingham, 1011 Ford Avenue, the Plan Commission voted Tuesday to recommend approval of the permit to Effingham City Council, which meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, at city hall.

Two plan commissioners, Cindy Vogel and Brad Meinhart, voted against the permit. Those voting in favor were Chairman Brian Hayes, and Commissioners Mark Thies, David Storm and Alan Harris.

Meinhart, after hearing information and testimony on both sides of the topic, asked if the proposed location for this type of business was the best for Effingham?

“As people come through on the interstates, this is one of the first properties, coming from the east, that people see,” said Meinhart. “Is this the right location? It might be best for the business, but is it the best for our community?”

Vogel said she had concerns about a new residential subdivision close by and a church not far away from the proposed recreational-use dispensary. She wasn’t certain either if the proposed location is best for Effingham.

“I don’t know if we will have lines wrapped around the building and down the street,” said Vogel. “I don’t know what to expect. But, it’s here. And it’s all about the money. Let’s be honest.”

Hayes said he drives along the interstate, although he’s aware of it, the medical cannabis shop isn’t the first thing that draws his attention.

Thies questioned where an ideal location would be.

“I don’t want it in a residential area,” said Thies. “I don’t want it where there is a school across the street.”

Brendan Blume, vice president of store development with Green Thumb Industries, which owns The Clinic, stated Tuesday the company would like to be allowed to add to the already successful medical cannabis dispensary at the same location by selling recreational cannabis in the next-door building of the complex.

If the City Council approves it next week, Kelley Esker, GTI Community Outreach Director, said the business hopes to be ready for sales in February on the recreational side.

She believes the addition to the business means GTI will be hiring an additional 15 part-time employees for the Effingham dispensary.

Also, GTI expects to change the name of the dispensary to Rise Effingham upon opening of the new location in its rebranding efforts across Illinois. GTI also has locations in Mundelein, Canton, Quincy and Joliet.

Blume said some of the benefits for the community would be the draw of people from other communities who would patronize other shops and restaurants while in Effingham.

“We have great dispensaries throughout the State of Illinois and we’ve seen the positive benefits from the local businesses adjacent to ours,” said Blume.

A local pastor spoke in opposition during the public hearing portion of the meeting requesting the special-use permit. The Rev. Bryan Newswander, pastor of Effingham Assembly, told the commission just because the sale has been allowed here, doesn’t mean the commission has to grant a permit to do so.

“As a local pastor, I am concerned about the good of our community,” said Newswander. “One of our great ministries is called Celebrate Recovery, which is a Christ-centered 12-step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain and addiction of any kind.”

“So, is this good for our community?” Newswander asked.

“As a resident, as a citizen, and as a pastor, I’m concerned,” he added. “I’m concerned because this is ‘the great experiment’ right now. This is still new. We know that it takes time for reports and studies to come through. I think it is a bad experiment. I’m asking you to consider what good comes from giving a special permit for the sales of recreational marijuana?”

City Attorney Tracy Willenborg said special conditions can be placed on a special-use permit to ensure safety of the community.

Greg Koester, subdivision administrator, said the state legislature allows municipalities to set their own guidelines, rules and regulations through zoning, so the text amendment was drafted by city staff following many discussions. The text amendment was unanimously approved Tuesday.

“Any petition for a special-use permit under this (text amendment) will be considered on a case-by-case basis, after being evaluated on the entirety of the circumstances affecting the subject property,” said Koester, referencing the Municipal Code.

The business must provide an approved site plan and pay $5,000 for an administrative review fee as well.

The city has allowed a maximum of two special-use permits for an adult-use cannabis dispensary in a highway commercial district; and the dispensary cannot be located within 1,500 feet from another adult-use dispensary.

The six pages of rules and regulations include:

  • The facility must meet several conditions including that it will be enclosed, secure and locked, with several security cameras around the facility. The facility must also be well lighted and have adequate security and supervision.
  • No portion of the exterior of the adult-use cannabis dispensing shop can have flashing light, search light, spotlight or similar lighting; no electronic message boards may be used; and signs may not include any realistic representation of drug paraphernalia or imagery oriented toward youth; and off-site billboards advertising cannabis won’t be allowed.
  • In addition, the shop may not have a drive-thru or outdoor seating; Hours of operation can be between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.; No one under age 21 can be in the adult-use dispensary; and no one under 18 can be in the medical-use dispensary, which will be sharing some of the space.

The Clinic has been selling medical cannabis in Effingham for just more than three years. Until all approvals are met, The Clinic Effingham can only serve those with the medical cannabis cards.

In other matters, the Plan Commission:

  • Approved a site plan for Jack Flash at 1502 West Fayette Avenue, Effingham. The owners want to separate diesel fuel pumps from the gasoline fuel pumps in order to better serve the larger diesel vehicles – campers, buses, delivery trucks and some semitrucks. Although it isn’t being marketed for semis, the entrance work was reconfigured to accommodate them. Semitruck traffic would come in on the frontage road and exit out on Illini Drive.
  • Recommended approval of a rezoning petition made by Troy and Laura Hardiek from nonurban to single-family, for property at 2008 N. Steger Drive, Effingham. The couple own Lot 27 in Mini Hills Subdivision, plus an adjoining 30-foot-wide strip, where they plan to build a single-family home. The properties will be replatted into one lot, as well. The City Council will vote on the matter on Jan. 21.
  • Recommended approval of a petition by Sharon Roepke for rezoning six acres of property at 2710 North Third Street (Route 45) from nonurban to light industrial for the purpose of constructing and relocating I-70 Truck Center from its location at 710 East Rickelman Avenue. The location is along North Route 45 between Oneighty youth center and B&L Machine. The truck center business has been in operation for 13 years.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138.

Reporter

Dawn Schabbing is a senior reporter at the Effingham Daily News, covering Effingham City Hall, Unit 40, and special projects. A graduate of Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with degrees in journalism, she lives in Neoga.

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