JOLIET – Will County Republican Chair Jim Moustis is having second thoughts about county officials going soft earlier this year when developing zoning laws for medical marijuana growers.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would have pushed for a special use requirement [for cultivation centers],” Moustis said following a Will County Executive Committee meeting Thursday.
Local governmental bodies set zoning rules for medical marijuana businesses without controversy. But a marijuana farm proposed for Wilton Township now has become an issue. Two others have been proposed for Plainfield and Channahon townships.
Moustis told the Executive Committee he was concerned after hearing about a group of New York investors buying a 35-acre parcel of land in Wilton Township in unincorporated Will County with the intent of building a growing center there.
“With a special-use permit, it would have given the public the ability to say why they like or don’t like it,” Moustis said, noting the special-use process entails public hearings and special approval from the county.
The County Board earlier this year updated its zoning laws to include rules relating to medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries.
Ultimately, board members chose to allow growing centers in the county’s agricultural and industrial zoning districts – without the need for a special-use permit. Dispensaries, on the other hand, would have to obtain a special-use permit.
A meeting was held earlier this week in Manhattan to allow the New York investors – known as White Oak Growers – to explain their intent to build a growing center in the Wilton Township area.
Wilton Township Supervisor Gynith Borden said Thursday that residents at the meeting were angered that the meeting was held at Manhattan Village Hall rather than in Wilton Township, where the growing center would be located. Borden said the New York group agreed to hold a second meeting within the next couple of weeks in Wilton Township.
Still, some residents raised concern about the town having a stigma attached to it if a growing center were located there, Borden said.
“Some said they didn’t want it to be known ‘as the pot farm town,’ ” Borden said. “Security was another concern of residents.”
Moustis recommended Thursday that the county’s Land Use and Development Committee revisit the zoning amendments. If changes were made to require a special-use permit for cultivation centers, Moustis said, it would not be retroactive so as not to affect current applicants.
Noting the highly-competitive process, Moustis said he thinks if the county had started out by requiring special use earlier this year, that would have turned investors away from Will County.
“They would have never looked to Will County. We wanted Will County to be considered,” Moustis said. “Quite frankly, there’s a significant revenue stream here.”
Applying in Will County
Two groups interested in operating cultivation centers in Will County have submitted applications for state review, County Land Use Director Curt Paddock said Thursday.
Among the applicants is Green Point Botanical LLC, which has targeted a 55-acre parcel of undeveloped land in Plainfield Township, Paddock said.
The second group – Illinois Plant LLC – is eyeing 27711 S. Frontage Road, a 21.6-acre parcel in Channahon Township.
As part of the groups’ applications to the state, Paddock said the state requires that the applicants’ property is zoned appropriately and that they apply to the proper zoning authority, which is, in this case, Will County, Paddock said.