By Bob Uphues
The village of Riverside is fast-tracking advisory commission discussions on the merits of allowing the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes and, if so, how cannabis sales should be regulated and taxed on a local level.
Last week, the village Preservation Commission discussed whether amending the zoning code to permit the sale of recreational cannabis would have any adverse effect on the village's national landmark designation.
Commissioners on Aug. 8 unanimously agreed that the zoning amendment as proposed would not have an adverse impact on Frederick Law Olmsted's general plan of the village or Riverside's national landmark status.
"Our role is so focused and so limited in scope," said Preservation Commission Chairman Charles Pipal. "The rest is up to other folks to discuss."
On Aug. 22, the Riverside Economic Development Commission will discuss how allowing businesses that sell cannabis for recreational purposes would affect the village's brand and whether such businesses are consistent with marketing efforts undertaken in the past couple of years.
The Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the subject on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. in Room 4 of the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road.
In addition to hearing sworn testimony from the public, commissioners will also discuss proposed amendments to the village's zoning code, including where to allow cannabis-related businesses; setting buffers between such businesses and places like schools, parks and libraries; and whether to require cannabis-related businesses to obtain special use permits.
The Riverside Village Board will make a final call on whether to allow recreational cannabis sales or how to regulate them. Trustees could take action as soon as Sept. 5, although they could simply opt to discuss the matter further at that time.
As presented to three commissions the proposed amendments would allow only cannabis dispensaries in the village. Craft growers, cultivation centers, infusers, cannabis processing and transportation companies would not be permitted.
In addition, the proposed law would allow dispensaries as a special use only in the B1-C district, which is along Harlem Avenue.
The proposed law also prohibits dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, and onsite consumption of cannabis would be prohibited, as would the sale of food and alcohol at any cannabis dispensary, and hours of operation would be limited to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The proposed law also allows the village to require owners of any dispensary to provide the village with a parking enforcement agreement that would allow local police to enforce parking rules on private property without permission from the business owner.
The village would also be able to require dispensary owners to allow the village to have access at all times they are open for business and allow the village to access surveillance camera footage when requested. The village would also be able to require certain building enhancements, like security cameras.
At the village board's last discussion, on Aug. 1, there appeared to be a clear split between trustees on whether to allow cannabis sales at all.
Trustees Elizabeth Peters and Wendell Jisa restated their opposition to allowing such businesses in the village, while trustees Cristin Evans, Edward Hannon and Doug Pollock have voiced support. Trustee Alex Gallegos has not yet publicly committed support either way.
That could leave Village President Ben Sells in the position of casting a tie-breaking vote if Gallegos comes out against the businesses.