Danville pot dispensary

Phoenix Farms LLC wants to convert the former Border Cafe restaurant at 369 Lynch Drive near the Lynch exit on Interstate 74 southeast of Danville into a cannabis dispensary.

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DANVILLE — The Danville planning and zoning commission narrowly decided Thursday to recommend that a special-use permit be granted for a cannabis dispensary, after first hearing objections from two business owners, including the owner of a nearby hotel.

Tim Knight of California owns the Sleep Inn on Lynch Road in Danville, next door to the former Border Cafe, 369 Lynch Road, where Phoenix Farms of Illinois wants to put a Sunnyside-brand cannabis dispensary.

Knight told the city commission Thursday that a dispensary — which could sell medicinal and recreational marijuana — would negatively affect his business. He said he objects to allowing one in the same area as eight hotels that serve families. Knight, the only hotel owner at the meeting, said he believes it could reduce the number of people who choose to stay at his business.

“Potentially, we could go out of business,” he said. “Don’t put it in the middle of hotels where families and children will see it.”

But that area along Lynch Road on the southeast outskirts of the city is the only place where a cannabis dispensary is allowed, according to ordinance revisions recently written by city administration and approved Thursday by the planning and zoning commission just before it considered the permit.

The ordinance changes require a dispensary to be a half-mile from residential-zoned areas. That restriction means the area along Lynch Road is the only space within the city that meets the requirement.

The city council voted in September to allow a recreational-cannabis dispensary within city limits and apply a 3 percent tax to sales.

Tyson Terhune, the city’s senior planner, said the intent of city administration in requiring a half-mile stipulation is to keep any type of cannabis business away from neighborhoods, specifically far enough that it wouldn’t be within easy walking distance.

The commission ultimately recommended by a 3-2 vote that the city council issue the permit. The council is expected to vote on it at its Nov. 19 meeting.

The Sleep Inn hotel manager and the owner of a convenience store and gas station also spoke against granting the permit, citing safety and security issues as well as increased traffic and noise.

But Terhune pointed out that the site had previously been a restaurant, so parking and traffic wouldn’t be dramatically different under this use.

Sabrina Noah, vice president of public affairs with Cresco Labs, which is headquartered in Chicago and owns Phoenix Farms, spoke on behalf of the petition and explained that the facility would have a “robust” security plan with a trained individual checking identifications as customers come into the facility and another trained security individual “constantly” watching security monitors linked to high-quality cameras. She said they can sell to Illinois residents only and diligently check identifications for residency and other requirements, including age.

She said the facility could open in the first quarter of next year under the proposed timeline, and operating hours would be 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. She said they have five other dispensaries operating in Illinois, including one at 1704 S. Neil St., C, which has a hotel nearby.

Ted Vacketta, one of the two commissioners who voted against the permit, said that as people come into Danville, they may perceive that area of hotel businesses differently with a cannabis dispensary there. He said he has had concerns since he first knew of this proposal.

“Maybe it would never be a problem,” he said. “The city council really needs to consider what they’re trying to accomplish with a dispensary in that location.”

Reporter

Tracy Crane is a Danville-based reporter for The News-Gazette. Her email is tcrane@news-gazette.com.