A marijuana shop may not be allowed in Northbrook, but if it is, an ‘eyesore’ intersection could be where it goes

Chicago Tribune 3 weeks ago

Northbrook Village Board members haven’t decided whether to allow any marijuana-related businesses in town, but if they do, two vacant buildings at the intersection of Skokie Boulevard and Dundee Road could turn into a recreational marijuana shop.

Northbrook Plan Commission members heard from the public Tuesday night about a proposal for a recreational marijuana dispensary and asked questions of Greenhouse Group LLC, the would-be owner of the dispensary.

If the proposal is accepted, the former Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at 755 Skokie Boulevard would be transformed into a recreational marijuana dispensary and activities space. The vacant Marathon Gas station at 430 Dundee Road would be demolished and turned into a landscaped area with room for an entry sign, bike parking and a pedestrian entrance.

“I’m thrilled that this particular owner is consolidating two bad lots into one usable lot, and I look forward to you getting something built here as soon as possible,” Commissioner Dan Pepoon said.

Almost two dozen people spoke at the plan commission meeting about recreational marijuana in town, with about half in favor and half opposed.

Some were concerned that the dispensary would be near restaurants like Chipotle that are frequented by high school students.

“A lot of families wouldn’t oppose medical use, but recreational, given that we do care about families and our kids possibly getting into the use of cannabis, that they just might want to try,” Inna Nekorystnova said. “It’s just very concerning to families.”

Franklin said the state law allows recreational marijuana and that the drug could still be purchased in other cities, regardless of Northbrook’s decision. Some said, though, that they still didn’t want it available in their town.

“As parents, as far from our kids, the better,” Nekorystnova said.

Several of those who spoke in favor of the dispensary application were customers of Greenhouse’s medical marijuana dispensary in Deerfield. One, Larry Fisher, said he suffers from fibromyalgia, a condition that causes him a great deal of pain.

“They were fantastic, they counseled me, they gave me information on all the different forms of THC, from edibles to smoking, what would be good for me,” Fisher said. “They really go above and beyond.”

The issue was continued until Nov. 5 and may be delayed further if Village Board members don’t make a final decision Oct. 22 about whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses in Northbrook.

Plan commission members asked questions about security and business operations, which were answered by Mitch Kahn, the CEO of Greenhouse Group LLC, and Perrine Knight, chief administrative officer. Greenhouse operates medical marijuana dispensaries in Deerfield, Mokena, Morris and Litchfield, as well as in other states.

Northbrook Police Commander Mike Metrick wrote in an email that the department has no concerns related to the site’s security plan, according to the staff report.

Visitors to the dispensary will have to show ID to prove they’re at least 21 years old, both at the lobby before they’re allowed inside the store, and then again when they make a purchase, according to a report prepared by village staff.

In answer to plan commission chair Marcia Franklin’s question about employee background checks and whether his businesses experience much product “shrinkage” — or employees stealing marijuana — Kahn said extensive background checks are conducted.

“I would dare say that I believe this retail business has less shrink than any retail business I’ve ever seen anywhere, because the product is so controlled,” Kahn said. “It’s in a locked facility … We balance cash and we balance inventory every single day.”

Knight told the plan commission that there would always be senior management and a security team member at the site during business hours, and the facility would be constantly monitored by alarm and video surveillance.

At the medical marijuana facility in Deerfield, customers can attend free wellness activities like yoga and cancer support groups, Kahn said, although he’s not sure whether those same activities would be as important to recreational users. But he said there are many who don’t qualify for a medical license but still want to use marijuana for medical reasons.

“They want (marijuana) to deal with pain, they want it to deal with sleep issues, they want it to deal with anxiety issues, those kinds of things,” Kahn said.

Many at the meeting in favor of the recreational marijuana business described the vacant buildings at Skokie Boulevard and Dundee Road as unattractive and said they would be glad to see them transformed.

“That property has been an eyesore for years,” Andy Poticha said. “What they’re talking about doing is a huge improvement for the gateway of Northbrook as you’re coming off Edens (Expressway).”

Michael Gruber, another speaker, said if a dispensary were allowed in Northbrook, he’d like it in the proposed location because it’s “clearly visible and accessible.”

Michael Nortman, CEO of Crossroads Partners, which owns the two lots, said they want to “leave as much open space as possible” and are open to suggestions from the village.

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