8863 Ogden Ave., Brookfield | Google Maps

Brookfield is one step closer to welcoming its first recreational use cannabis dispensary to town after the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-0 on April 27 to recommend granting a special use permit for The 1937 Group to open a store at 8863 Ogden Ave.

The decision came with enthusiastic support from commissioners, who praised the cannabis company’s plan to renovate the existing vacant building, demolish the single-family home at the rear of the property and seek removal of the curb cut on Ogden Avenue.

“I think you’ve put a lot of effort into this,” said Commissioner Patrick Benjamin. “I think it’s a good spot for the use. … I’m supportive of it.”

The commission did impose some conditions on their recommendation partly in response to a nearby neighbor who worried that business would increase traffic through the alley immediately south of the Ogden Avenue property.

In addition to the curb The 1937 Group intended to install along the south lot line to prevent traffic from exiting and entering the parking lot through the alley, the commission agreed the company should install a fence along the south lot line.

They also recommended the company repair or replace the fence along the east lot line, although that fence, which is in some disrepair possibly belongs to the property to the east.

In addition, the commission also made its recommendation conditional on The 1937 Group temporarily closing off the Ogden Avenue curb cut into the parking lot as it seeks Illinois Department of Transportation permission to remove the curb cut.

Whether or not the village board will concur with that temporary closure isn’t certain. Village Manager Timothy Wiberg, who was seated in the audience and watched the public hearing, seemed to prefer keeping it open for now to avoid cars turning into the driveway before realizing it was blocked off.

The village board could get its first look at The 1937 Group’s special use permit application at their committee of the whole meeting on May 8. If that happens, trustees could vote to approve the special use permit at their May 22 meeting.

Jim Reilly, vice president of facilities for The 1937 Group, told planning commissioners on April 27 that it would take six to seven months to renovate the 3,100-square-foot building that most recently housed a medical office and for many years was home to Bambino’s restaurant.

The plan calls for removing the roof and lifting the Ogden Avenue facade to give the building more visual interest. The exterior and interior would also be completely renovated.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Charles Grund praised the design of the renovated building, saying it would be a noticeable upgrade.

“It’s an awful building, it’s ugly, it’s terrible,” said Grund of the existing structure. “Just taking off the mansard roof would have made it 100% better, and the suggestion of the plans that I’ve seen of improving the building will energize Ogden, I think.”

Removing the home at the rear of the property will allow The 1937 Group to add a curb cut along the Prairie Avenue frontage to serve as the entry/exit to the property. They’ll also be able to add landscaping and enlarge the parking lot to 22 spaces. The code requires 13 spaces at that location.

Four residents, including two who live nearby, expressed concerns about the dispensary, including fears that it would increase traffic and would bring off-hours delivery trucks and more bright lighting at night.

Ambrose Jackson, chairman and CEO of The 1937 Group, said the dispensary would be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and argued that the dispensary would benefit Brookfield and not result in problems.

He stressed that the cannabis industry in Illinois is highly regulated, and Reilly said the property would be equipped with security cameras that included license plate reading and facial recognition technology, that an armed guard would be present when the dispensary is open.

“Cannabis dispensaries actually contribute to public safety,” Jackson said. “Cannabis dispensaries are not associated with upticks in criminal activities.”

Anticipating some comment from the public unhappy with the idea of a cannabis dispensary operating in Brookfield at all, Grund reminded those in attendance that the village’s code of ordinances allows for cannabis dispensaries as a special use in several commercial districts.

“That ordinance is already in place,” Grund said. “I just want to make sure people understand that.”

As for the issue of bringing additional traffic, while Village Planner Kate Portillo said that a dispensary would be a “destination business,” it also aligned with both the village’s comprehensive plan and Energize Ogden plan.

Commissioners said dispensary traffic would probably not be as intense as it was when the property housed Bambino’s and that eventually removing the Ogden Avenue curb cut would be a traffic safety benefit.