Joliet is looking for traffic control and extra parking at the first two recreational marijuana stores with expectations that they will attract up to 500 customers a day.
Green Thumb Industries has said it will recommend that customers take Pace buses to their stores to ease parking problems, create off-site parking and perhaps even add a shuttle service to one store near the Louis Joliet Mall.
Still, an attorney for the company said opening days at the stores will not draw as many customers as some expect when recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Illinois in the new year.
“There’s a fear that on Day One there’s going to be 15,000 people at the facility – not true,” attorney Michael Hansen told the Joliet Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday.
Green Thumb is not saying how many customers it expects in the first days, although the company has told the city that regular daily business will range between 250 and 500 customers, with peak periods on weekends.
Hansen said fears of crowds in the first days are exaggerated. But Green Thumb will hire Joliet police “in the opening days and weeks” to patrol the store near the mall.
The zoning board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the special use permits Green Thumb needs to open the stores.
The City Council will have the final say on the permits, which are expected to go to the council for approval on Dec. 17 and in time for the stores to open Jan. 1.
Green Thumb acquired the property of a former mattress store at 2903 Colorado Ave. more than a year ago, and the other store will be at 1627 Rock Creek Blvd., a location in the Rock Run Business Park where the company has run the 3C Compassionate Care medical marijuana dispensary for the past four years.
The company has yet to do business on Colorado Avenue.
“Staff has major concerns over the permanent availability of off-street parking at this location since there are only 27 total spaces,” according to a staff report on the project.
The city is waiting on a parking management plan, which, according to the report, will “detail how the business will provide for the safe passage of users of this satellite lot to the subject property by means such as, but not limited to, a shuttle service, sidewalks, crosswalks and traffic control.”
The report notes that Green Thumb plans to use its website to encourage customers to take the Pace bus.
“However, there are no crosswalks to facilitate safe passage across Voyager Lane or Colorado Avenue in the vicinity of the bus stops,” according to the report.
Hansen said Green Thumb plans to use satellite parking for employees with customers parking at the store. Customers will use the satellite lot if needed, however.
“If that’s the case,” Hansen said, “we’ll have to arrange for shuttle bus service or something like that to get them over there.”
Chicago-based Green Thumb runs recreational dispensaries in Massachusetts and Nevada.
Company representatives after the meeting said they can predict daily traffic based on experience at stores in other states, but not what is likely to happen the first days of business.
“There have not been state projections. We would be guessing,” said Dina Rollman, senior vice president for government and regulatory affairs at Green Thumb.
Weather will be a factor, too, she said.
“Jan. 1, there could be a blizzard and people stay home,” Rollman said. “Or it could be one of those unusually warm winter days we get, people have the day off, and we get a lot of people.”