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Opinion: Editorials

October 29th, 2019 1:49 PM

As Brookfield officials try to fine tune regulations regarding the sale of recreational cannabis within the village, they need to ask themselves if this is something they are really sold on or not?

A month ago, Brookfield trustees appeared pretty clear in their support for the businesses, which are seen as not only potential revenue producers but as businesses that will attract foot traffic to the village's business districts.

Recreational cannabis-related businesses appeared to have a good amount of support from village residents – more than say, Riverside, which has opted in and fast-tracked amendments to their zoning code to attract a dispensary to Harlem Avenue as soon as possible.

Yet, in Brookfield, officials seem to be wavering on just how much they want these businesses.

Last week, the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission took a first look at a report prepared by village staff – a report no doubt informed by the village board's enthusiastic agreement to move ahead with allowing cannabis businesses.

The staff report argued for treating cannabis dispensaries like similar retail businesses, permitting them by right in all of the commercial districts, with few restrictions. Staff also provided zoning districts to allow cannabis infusers, craft growers and transport operations.

But when it came time for the Planning and Zoning Commission to hash out staff's recommendations, they were sidetracked by the appearance that night of a model ordinance written up by the village's legal counsel – one that conflicted greatly with staff recommendations.

While we felt the commission could have largely ignored the model ordinance and focused on the staff recommendations, tweaking them as needed and then asking the village's attorney to craft an ordinance reflecting their recommendations, the appearance of the model ordinance stopped the commission in its tracks.

Faced with such differing language, they sought the advice of the village board, which on Oct. 28, sent some more mixed signals.

First and foremost, in place of permitting cannabis businesses by right, trustees seemed to want to use a special use process to approve cannabis businesses. That process takes longer and involved an expense that could have the effect of discouraging such businesses from locating in Brookfield.

Certain trustees also began having second thoughts about locating dispensaries in pedestrian-oriented commercial areas, like Eight Corners.

The recommendations that the Planning and Zoning Commission will receive in November, when they again consider the subject, are likely to differ from what they saw from staff last week.

That's fine, but we'd ask that the Planning and Zoning Commission really has out why adding more restrictions will help the village land the cannabis-related businesses they previously indicated they wanted to attract.

If the village isn't interested in really embracing the businesses, then regulating them into submission seem like a pointless exercise. If you really don't want them, just say so, and opt out.

Restricting them too much will simply serve to have such businesses bypass Brookfield anyway.

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