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The Plan Commission recommended approval for proposed zoning rules for recreational marijuana retailers, a second step in which the city appears on its way to permitting sales in Joliet.

The zoning regulations would permit marijuana sales in major business areas, including the Louis Joliet Mall, while banning them elsewhere, including outside City Hall and the Will County Courthouse.

A public hearing on the proposed zoning attracted only two speakers, and one was the lawyer for a potential marijuana retailer.

The proposal next goes to the City Council, which will have the final say-so on whether Joliet allows dispensaries, cultivation centers and other business operations related to recreational marijuana.

The council already has given staff the green light to develop zoning rules for recreational marijuana dispensaries, an indication it would not take the opt-out action allowed by state law for municipalities that do not want sales in their boundaries once use becomes legal on Jan. 1.

The Plan Commission approved the proposed zoning by 6-1 votes with the one objector being Chairman John Dillon, who questioned whether buffer zones for schools and homes were wide enough.

Dillon voted for zoning allowing cannabis operations in industrial areas but voted against zoning in major business districts and downtown.

“We don’t care if you’re going to smoke pot,” Dillon said. “But I do care where you’re going to sell it and how close it’s going to be.”

The dispensaries would be prohibited within 250 feet of residentially zoned areas and within 500 feet of schools and day care centers.

Dillon suggested the buffer zones should be 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet, noting that the zoning rules ban one dispensary from being located within
1,500 feet of another.

“The distance between establishments was put in so we wouldn’t get into a situation where we have too many establishments at one location,” Jackson said. “We did not want them to be over-saturated in one area.”

The zoning permits sales in some sections of downtown while prohibiting dispensaries “from locating near select downtown institutions.” The exclusionary areas would keep dispensaries away from City Hall, the Will County Courthouse, the Rialto Square Theatre, the Joliet Public Library and the Joliet Area Historical Museum.

The limits are there “mainly because of the family aspect of the library and museum,” Jackson said. “The courthouse and City Hall – these are the regulatory institutions of the city and the county. We did not think cannabis locations nearby would be appropriate.”

The zoning rules would permit dispensaries in general business districts such as the area around Louis Joliet Mall and major commercial corridors like Jefferson Street, Route 59 and Essington Road.

Other operations, including growing and processing facilities, would be limited to industrial areas, where dispensaries also could open.

The state has already licensed recreational sales for 3C Compassionate Care Center, which now dispenses medical marijuana at its facility on Rock Creek Boulevard.

The medical dispensary has about 200 clients a day, and 3C Compassionate Care would expect between 300 and 500 a customers a day for recreational marijuana, said Kristin Trizna, general manager for the facility.

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