Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals Holds First of Two Public Hearings to Permit Adult-Use Cannabis in Unincorporated Lake County

Areas Near Hawthorn Woods and Lake Zurich Potentially Affected

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. — The Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals held the first of two public hearings live via Zoom and YouTube Mon. April 19 to take questions and comments on proposed amendments that could eventually allow adult-use cannabis businesses to operate in unincorporated Lake County, including nearby Sylvan Lake and Gilmer.

The entire 2 hours of presentations and public comment was recorded and can be viewed here.

“The topic of adult use cannabis has been circulating for adults over the age of 21. This hearing is the first step in deciding in whether in the unincorporated area, outside any villages within the county, adult-use cannabis businesses should be zoned and operated in the future, subject to state licensing, A very important part of the process is the feedback we hear from you, the public,” said Lake County Planning, Building and Development Department Director Eric Waggoner.

Lake County Municipal League President Donny Schmit believes allowing cannabis in unincorporated Lake County would have a negative impact on nearby municipalities. Schmit is also Mayor of Fox Lake.

“I’m happy to hear we have over 100 participants here tonight. This follows extensive community outreach. Our intention was to make it known to the public what role the public would have at the process as we move forward. We’ll be looking closely at your various perspectives,” he continued.

Lake County Municipal League President and Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit was one of the dozen or so individuals who spoke during the public commentary portion of the evening.

“I’ve been approached by several mayors to speak to you tonight,” said Schmit. “The proposed ordinance would have a great negative impact on municipalities. The county will benefit, but it will be at the expense of nearby municipalities.”

Schmit was referring to the possibility that potential adult-use cannabis dispensary and other possible businesses related to the production, transportation and sale of legal marijuana would forgo building in municipalities, being attracted to the lower business taxes that would be levied on them if they built in unincorporated Lake County if the county were to permit cannabis businesses to operate there.

“I’ve been approached by several mayors to speak to you tonight. The proposed ordinance would have a great negative impact on municipalities.”

Donny Schmit, Mayor of Fox Lake and President, Lake County Municipal League

Other public commentary ranged from a hardline of opposition to complete support about the prospect of cannabis businesses being allowed to begin operating in unincorporated Lake County.

Village President of Port Barrington Shannon Yeaton voiced opposition to the proposal, citing her village’s relatively small size and therefore limited development opportunities as her primary reason.

“I would recommend any of these licensed cannabis owners and operators. They have been found to be good, respectful, excellent neighbors,” said Pamela Althoff, Executive Director, Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.

Adult-use business establishments in unincorporated Lake County have been formally prohibited to operate in unincorporated Lake County since the January 1, 2020 legalization of recreational cannabis throughout Illinois, according to a Lake County news bulletin.

The County Board chose to formally delay its decision until February of this year, to allow time to research health and law enforcement impacts and revenue implications of adult-use cannabis legalization.

“I would recommend any of these licensed cannabis owners and operators. They have been found to be good, respectful, excellent neighbors.”

Pamela Althoff, Executive Director, Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.

During this time, Lake County did not consider applications for proposed adult-use cannabis businesses, and leveraged a task force created by the Lake County Planning, Building and Development Department In 2019 to study the health, law enforcement and revenue implications of recreational marijuana now being legal in Illinois, and also the effects of permitting such businesses to operate in unincorporated Lake County, according to a county news bulletin.

The Lake County Board had voted unanimously on Feb. 9 to initiate the formal process to consider zoning regulations that would allow adult-use cannabis businesses to operate in unincorporated Lake County with certain restrictions, according to a county news bulletin.

The Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals made a visual-audio presentation on the Zoom/YouTube meeting before public comment began on Monday with the findings of the task force.

Four categories of cannabis businesses were identified: dispensaries (retail sales), growers, processors, and transporters.

The proposed amendments would include land-use buffers that would restrict any type of cannabis-related business from operating within certain spans of distance away from residential and forest preserve areas (250 feet), day care facilities, colleges, hospitals, parks and libraries (500 feet), public and private pre-, primary, and secondary schools (1000 feet), and other dispensaries in the case of dispensaries (1,500 feet).

The board of appeals discussed other conditions of the proposed amendments, such as no noxious odors and a 30 foot minimum setback from property lines, operational details such as signage, security and video surveillance, and on-site conduct.

The task force’s full report, along with additional information about the proposed allowance of adult-use cannabis businesses in unincorporated Lake County, can be found here.

Starting at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, an abbreviated form of the presentation made on Monday about the details of the proposed amendment will precede additional public commentary and questions for any members of the public.

Want to be heard? Interested parties can register to observe or participate in part two of the public comment on adult-use cannabis businesses in unincorporated Lake County here.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act of 2020 legalized the use and possession of cannabis subject to restrictions for Illinois residents age 21 and older, and authorized local governments to regulate growing, processing, transporting, and sale of cannabis products, according to a LakeCountyTV video brief posted on YouTube about adult-use cannabis businesses in unincorporated Lake County.

If needed, a third public hearing will be convened to address public comments and questions about the proposal. Whether or not that will happen will be announced after Wednesday’s hearing. After the hearings are completed, the Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals will deliberate and make a recommendation.

The Lake County Public Works, Planning & Transportation (PWPT) committee will meet in April or May to consider the zoning board of appeals’ recommendation, and at either the May or June Lake County Board Meeting, the PWPT’s recommendations will be considered.

Get More Information

To observe or participate in part two of the public comment on adult-use cannabis businesses in unincorporated Lake County, click here.

To view Monday night’s presentations and public comment in full, click here.

In October of last year, Illinois reported revenues in excess of $16 million from cannabis sales. Read about that here.

Details about the recreational cannabis mapping tool shown at the public hearing that shows municipalities, parcels, and buffers of the proposed amendment can be found here.

You can read in more detail about the adult-use cannabis proposed amendments and current legal status, provide input, and more here.

By Daniel J. Cameron

Daniel Cameron is a professional freelance writer/editor/proofreader originally from Detroit. He has written news, marketing/advertising, and general business writing, and SEO for 15 years since college, where he majored in professional writing. He is happy to write for the Local Newsreader and can be contacted at danieljcameron@gmail.com.

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