Purchase agreement made with medical marijuana grower

NILES — City council members are continuing to discuss what the future of medical and recreational marijuana will look like in Niles. During a city council meeting Monday night, they took a few strides in blazing that trail.

First, Niles city council members voted 7-1 to approve a purchase agreement with medical marijuana grow operation H.D.S Investments. Contingent upon a few agreements, including the company’s state approval, H.D.S. will purchase vacant city property at 13th and Lake streets for $30,001. City council member Georgia Boggs, who has spoken out against allowing marijuana development, was the only city council member  to vote “no.”

Prior to their vote, Mike Heskett, a principal with the company, spoke up.

“We appreciate you guys,” Heskett said. “We look forward to doing some business and making you guys some money.”

Heskett and fellow principals Jeff and Anne Durrell and Robert and Kimberly Seske have vouched to invest $1.5 million into building the medical marijuana facility.

Boggs brought into question the proposed business’ proximity to a church and area schools. 

Community Development Director Sanya Vitale said that medical marijuana industry must be at least 1,000 feet from a school and the proposed facility meets that requirement at a distance of 1,679 feet from area school buildings. She also said that church buildings do not apply to location restrictions for the medical marijuana industry.

Council member Dan VandenHeede also asked for clarification on the agreement conditions that the company will have to adhere to. In addition to receiving their state license, H.D.S. will also have to obtain a special land use permit and a city license.

Council member John DiCostanzo asked what would happen if H.D.S. chose to also sell recreational marijuana. To which, City Administrator Ric Huff said that if the council chooses to opt in, the company would have to come back before the city to receive a recreational license.

DiCostanzo congratulated H.D.S. on their accomplishment Monday night.

“I wish them luck in the pursuit of city and state licenses,” DiCostanzo said. “Thank you for believing in the city. I’m looking forward to seeing business on a site that has been just concrete and weeds.”

Recreational marijuana also came up for discussion. During council member reports at the end of the meeting, DiCostanzo motioned to pass a resolution to revisit the council’s earlier decision to opt out of future marijuana business, as soon as they have pertinent information to vote on the issue.

“I would like to give the community a stronger idea of where we stand,” DiCostanzo said. “My intent is that if we pass this, we are saying we intend to roll out a recreational marijuana ordinance and put it up for a vote.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 7-1, with Boggs voting in opposition.

City Attorney Robert Landgraf said the resolution does not change anything.

“You can raise this issue any time you want. I’m not sure what it would do other than send a signal,” Landgraf said.

VandenHeede said he wanted to emphasize that the resolution does not mean that the opt out resolution is being rescinded. Rather, he said it is a resolution of intent that might also provide some reassurance to potential investors looking to establish a marijuana business in Niles.

Following the city council meeting, city leaders and members of the planning commission met for a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss future zoning for recreational marijuana. 

Vitale shared a map with city council members showing the location of churches, schools and parks, where she said community members had expressed concern about the proximity of potential marijuana industry.

Vitale said the Planning Commission will be working to draft a zoning ordinance and make a recommendation in February.

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