Members of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission last week postponed making any recommendations for regulating the manufacture, sales and transportation of recreational cannabis, opting to wait until they receive a draft ordinance that’s in line with what the village’s staff is proposing.

At an Oct. 24 public hearing on amending the village’s zoning code to regulate recreational cannabis, commissioners expressed some frustration that the draft ordinance provided by the village’s attorney didn’t jive with staff recommendations.

While village staff’s recommendations sought to treat the sale of recreational cannabis like any other retail business, the draft ordinance from the village’s attorney was very restrictive, essentially limiting dispensaries to 47th Street, making them special uses and imposing large buffer zones from places like schools, churches and daycare centers.

Commissioners did not receive a copy of the draft ordinance until the night of the meeting.

“Why can we not get a document that is in harmony between counsel’s opinion and staff’s opinion?” asked Commissioner Patrick Benjamin. “It would be helpful if the ordinance and the staff report were in harmony with one another.”

Attorney Richard Ramello and Village Planner Elyse Vukelich are expected to work toward that end during the next month and present the recommended code changes and a new draft ordinance at the commission’s next regularly planned meeting on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.

That should still give the Brookfield Village Board time to review and vote on approving any code changes prior to Jan. 1, 2020, which is the date recreational cannabis sales become legal in Illinois.

Whether or not any cannabis dispensaries or growing facilities will locate in Brookfield remains to be seen. According to Vukelich, the state plans to approve 295 licenses for cannabis dispensaries by the end of 2020.

In addition, the state plans to approve 100 licenses for craft growers and another 100 for cannabis infusers, which incorporate cannabis into other products, such as edibles.

Vukelich said that the introduction of cannabis-related businesses is in keeping with the Brookfield Comprehensive Plan, saying such businesses –which are unique because customers have to physically visit dispensaries to obtain the product — could draw more consumers to the village.

In their report to Planning and Zoning Commissioners for the Oct. 24 public hearing, planning staff recommended permitting cannabis dispensaries to open by right in Ogden Avenue, Eight Corners, Grand Boulevard and 31st Street commercial districts as well as the 47th Street industrial district.

Dispensaries would also be allowed by right in the vicinity of the Hollywood Metra stop, where there are some commercial buildings. Those dispensaries, however, would be restricted to 3,500 square feet of floor space or less.

Staff also recommended that craft growing businesses be permitted by right along the Ogden Avenue and 47th Street corridors and suggested that cannabis infusing businesses would be appropriate in the 47th Street industrial corridor.

Cannabis transportation businesses, according to staff, should be allowed as a special use in the 47th Street industrial district. Trucking and transportation terminals are already allowed as special uses in the district.

Staff also recommended that cannabis dispensaries provide one parking space per 333 square feet of floor area in the Station Area zoning districts and one space per 250 square feet in other zoning districts.

Craft grower, infusers and transportation operations should provide one parking space per employee and one space per company vehicle, staff recommended.

Commissioners did question whether craft growers and infusers could locate in any zoning district where residential uses were also permitted. Ramello said his reading of the law would prohibit such uses in any district, like Ogden Avenue or the Station Area districts. However, he acknowledged, “It’s by no means a decided issue.”

When the matter is brought back to the commission in November, the draft ordinance also likely will include amendments with regard to medical cannabis businesses, which right now are relegated to 47th Street.

That draft ordinance is also now likely to be informed by comments made by members of the village board, who discussed the subject at their Oct. 28 meeting.  One significant difference is that trustees appeared to agree that cannabis-related businesses should require a special use permit, which would trigger a public hearing process prior to approval.

With the introduction of recreational cannabis, commissioners felt that the regulations regarding buffer zones should mirror each other. Commissioner Jennifer Hendricks suggested adding buffer zone language for cannabis dispensaries in the draft ordinance, even if those buffers are small, for schools and other “sensitive uses” such as daycare centers, churches, etc.

“We need to probably decide what those sensitive uses are, but I think we need something in the code that, at the very minimum, puts a limit on distance to schools,” Hendricks said.