The Henry County Board will consider a general resolution of support for cultivation and dispensaries of medical marijuana in the county at its Aug. 14 meeting.|
The county's nine-member executive committee on Saturday approved recommending the county board pass the resolution in a unanimous voice vote.
Kathleen Repass, director of the Henry County Economic Development Partnership, described working with potential medical marijuana businesses since May, saying the chief hurdle had been a 2,500-foot setback from any property zoned residential, as well as schools and day care facilities.
She said they even concluded there were no possible locations in the county, but a new group that already owns property in Phenix Township came forward and expressed interest in an application for a cultivation center.
Ms. Repass said there is a house within one-fourth mile of the property, but planning and development committee chairman Ann DeSmith noted the house is zoned agriculture as a farmhouse and is not an issue.
Ms. Repass said state regulations on security for the cultivation centers are akin to "Fort Knox if not more." Any cultivation center would be an indoor facility, according to state law.
"It's a pharmaceutical facility; that's what they're designated," she said.
Ms. Repass said the partners working on a cultivation center in Phenix Township are Phil Jordan, of Geneseo, an owner of GenTech Seed; Bill Mennie, of Mennie Machine Company of Mark, Ill.; and farmers Bart Whitney and Trent Griffith. Mr. Griffith is also a partner in GenTech.
Cultivation centers typically provide 35 to 40 jobs initially, starting at $15 per hour up to whatever scientists and engineers earn. No sales tax revenue is involved with cultivation sites; only dispensaries.
Ms. Repass said the state released the initial application form on Friday afternoon.
The state is leaving zoning for the centers up to local governments. Ms. Repass said some counties are requiring ag zoning with a special use permit, some are simply having agriculture zoning and some are having light industrial. She said cultivation centers are primarily regulated under the Department of Agriculture.
The county's planning and zoning committee would take up whether to require a special use permit and present a recommendation to the county board itself. Ms. DeSmith said special use permits would be typical for a rural businesses — even those doing ag-related work such as tractor repair — and were required for the county's wind farms. She said special use permits are typically issued for three years and can be revoked at any time They also expire if a business changes ownership. She said Henry County had been waiting to see what the state would require for medical marijuana zoning before establishing its own zoning requirements. She also noted the current state form is marked "draft application," indicating it's not in its final form.
There would not be time to change zoning or complete the special use permit process before applications are due Sept. 22, but the application has a place to indicate that correct zoning is being sought. Ms. Repass said that should provide a level of comfort for the applicants.
Entities seeking cultivation centers can apply for permits in three locations. This group is applying for other locations in Mark, which is in Putnam County, and in Marshall County.
The applicants need letters of support as part of the application process. Ms. Repass said they do not necessarily need a letter of support from the county. She said the Geneseo mayor has indicated initial support.
According to Ms. Repass, both the Henry County sheriff's department and the Geneseo police department have mentioned the possibility of the firm hiring off-duty deputies with drug dogs.
Executive committee member Roger Gradert expressed concern of possible negative feedback by naming potential applicants, adding that they might be putting the cart in front of the horse in not speaking in general terms.
"I don't want to see that happening. I don't want to see possible investors being scared away," he said. "It's important to show we are proactive to bringing business into the community."
Ms. Repass responded that medical marijuana is now state law. She said she's spoken with state Sen. Darin LaHood and Rep. Don Moffitt, both of whom voted against it but say now that it's law, they support it here.
"We can't say you can't do it; it's state law," added Ms. DeSmith.
Ms. DeSmith said later that the county has the potential to set parameters in terms of security measures through the special use permit.
Ms. Repass said she has been working on several site selections since early May, reaching out to all the towns to see if they had interest. She said the 2,500-foot setback from property zoned residential, school or day care seemed to preclude everything in Henry County. She noted according to state law passed last year, each state patrol district is to get one cultivation site and also be eligible for either one or two dispensaries, and she said District 7, which includes Henry County, is eligible for one dispensary.
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