• Michael McDevitt
    JAN 18, 2023

    Zoning committee OKs zone change for proposed Lincoln Park cannabis dispensary

    43rd Ward Director of Zoning and Urban Development Taylor Nesse, top right, speaks during the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards meeting on Jan. 17, 2023. [City of Chicago Livestream] 

    The City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards on Tuesday approved a zone change to allow a proposed cannabis business in Lincoln Park to move forward with plans. 

    Approval did not come, however, before one alderman expressed skepticism about the status of some cannabis businesses as minority-owned while stopping short of accusing the applicants. 

    Marigrow, the applicant company, is seeking to turn the former Salt n’ Pepper diner location at 2573-81 N. Lincoln Ave into Ümi, a 4,970-square-foot dispensary. The company received a state license in June 2022. The space has been vacant since 2015. 

    The committee approved a zone change request for the site from B3-3, Community Shopping District, to C2-3, Motor Vehicle-Related Commercial District. 

    The cannabis dispensary would be Lincoln Park’s first. Marigrow CEO Akele Parnell has responded to community concerns about the dispensary’s proximity to Jonquil Park and concerns about an effect on youth safety by saying the dispensary plans to hire security personnel who will also be able to keep an eye on the park as an unintended outcome of the store’s location. 

    Following committee approval, Marigrow must now obtain a special use permit to operate the dispensary from the Zoning Board of Appeals following a period of public comment. 

    Taylor Nesse, Director of Zoning and Urban Development for the 43rd Ward, said former 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith supported and helped kickstart the process of opening the dispensary in October 2021 after three different dispensary proposals came before her office. 

    “It was Ald. Smith's wish that if any dispensary is to open in the 43rd Ward that it would be a social equity applicant,” Nesse said. “This particular applicant was the only one who fit that criteria so she permitted them to continue along in the process.” 

    Since her successor, Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43) took office, Nesse said the aldermanic office has hosted a community meeting about the dispensary with the Wrightwood Neighbors Association. The association and aldermanic office both expressed no opposition to the zone change. 

    Nesse made it clear the office only was expressing “no opposition” to the zone change and would not express an opinion on the special use permit also required to open the cannabis business. Nesse said community outreach efforts have elicited both support and opposition and “the majority of the opposing comments have been with matters pertaining more to the special use (permit) and business operations side of things than particularly the zoning change.” 

    “The special use permit necessary for a cannabis dispensary will have to undergo further community review with the (Zoning Board of Appeals) and (the) neighborhood association,” Nesse said. “And we fully expect that the applicant will comply with that process and do their due diligence as well in the continued review process.” 

    Ald. Anthony Beale (9) asked Parnell about the breakdown of minority ownership in the business. Parnell said ownership was split five ways but was “100 percent” minority-owned. 

    Parnell later told Ald. David Moore (17) the business is “at least 70 percent Black-owned” but then conceded it was closer to 66 percent. 

    “My big concern with the social applicants is that, I'm not saying that you guys are, but a lot of them are fronts,” Beale said. “And they’re fronts for the other applicants and we really need to get to the bottom, and I think the state did a very poor job of making sure that a lot of the shenanigans can’t happen with the social equity applicants. But it is happening. So my antennas are up.” 

    Here are some other items approved Tuesday: 

    O2022-3916 - A zone change request from B1-1, Neighborhood Shopping District to B1-2, Neighborhood Shopping District at 6801 N. California Ave. Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago, an Illinois not for profit organization D.B.A. Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu, is proposing to renovate the property and turn it into a religious high school. 

    O2022-3833 - A zone change request from B1-1, Neighborhood Shopping District to B3-1, Community Shopping District at 6004 W. North Ave. The applicant plans to convert the vacant space from retail clothing into a new fine-dining establishment with a rooftop deck patio within an existing one-story commercial building. The project will include $250,000 in funding from a Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant. 

    O2022-3904 - Bella Noir received approval for a zone change from B1-1, Neighborhood Shopping District to B3-3, Community Shopping District to accommodate the development of a large mixed-use site at 601-625 East 47th Street. The project is planned to consist of 27 units of housing, a wellness hub, basketball court and medical offices dedicated to mental health. 

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