Zen Leaf St. Charles has been granted permission to sell recreational marijuana at its existing medical dispensary for the next 18 months.
After that, the business has pledged to either cease operations or relocate to an area deemed more appropriate by the city.
Aldermen have been debating for months whether adult-use cannabis sales should be allowed as a special use in the limited manufacturing zoning district and, more specifically, at Zen Leaf’s shop in the St. Charles Commons complex.
Company representatives submitted a set of proposed conditions last week, including a two-year expiration date, in hopes of alleviating concerns over their business plan. After shortening the sunset clause by six months, the city council voted 6-4 Monday to approve the zoning change and special use.
Aldermen had approved an ordinance last fall allowing no more than two recreational pot dispensaries in town, one of which must be linked to a medical cannabis facility that has operated in St. Charles for at least a year.
Zen Leaf is the only business that qualifies for that provision. But its state license is tied to the shop at 3714 Illinois Ave., which is outside the regional business and community business zoning districts where the use was permitted.
In a May 13 letter to the city, Zen Leaf attorney Tyler Manic said the company “firmly believes” lawmakers will amend state legislation to allow the dispensary to relocate — and it has every intention of doing so. An 18-month sunset clause would give Zen Leaf time to secure a new location, obtain city approval and build out the space, he said, all while continuing operations and generating “substantial sales tax” for St. Charles.
The company also promised to update the parking lot lighting, install more security cameras and add signage prohibiting on-site consumption at its existing dispensary.
The updated conditions were a selling point for Alderman David Pietryla.
“It does show that you are open to working with us, and (your plan) does align with our policy that we did pass in October,” he told Zen Leaf officials. “I think all roads are leading back there, and I want to thank you for that.”
Company leaders also are trying to resolve issues among neighboring business owners, some of whom spoke against the recreational pot use at previous meetings. The dispensary has since gained support from its most vocal opponents, including a nearby dance studio.
Still, the shop’s proximity to the Beth Fowler School of Dance was a red flag for Alderman Maureen Lewis, who voted against both the zoning change and the special use. Aldermen Art Lemke, Rita Payleitner and Ron Silkaitis also voted “no.”