Moline cannabis dispensary wins preliminary approval

A cannabis dispensary could go into a former Aldi store on Avenue of the Cities, Moline. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

The Moline Plan Commission approved locating a cannabis dispensary in the former Aldi store redevelopment if the owners agree to move its main entrance from Avenue of the Cities west to 27th Street.

No one from the public spoke Wednesday, Aug. 24, during the commission’s public hearing to support or oppose a special-use permit for the facility. That permit is required before license holder Deeprootz LLC, can put a recreational-use cannabis dispensary in the commercial redevelopment at 2727 Avenue of the Cities.

Only one commissioner voted against the updated recommendation that included a list of conditions previously recommended by city staff. The commission’s recommendation, which also includes the additional main entrance changes, will be sent to the Moline City Council which is expected to initiate the approval process next week. Council also is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on the dispensary next month.

At the Wednesday meeting, Dan Dolan, owner of the 2727 Avenue of the Cities site, and David Fettner, managing partner of Highwood, Illinois-based Grow America Builders, represented Deeprootz. Company reps did not appear to attend the meeting in person at Moline City Hall.

Grow America is a national full-service, design-build company that exclusively builds cannabis-related facilities – including 75 dispensaries already built, Mr. Fettner said. He said the Moline business will feature a large sales floor and gathering area to easily accommodate the large number of customers its owners expect to serve. Given its proximity to Interstate 74, Mr. Fettner and Mr. Dolan agreed with Deeprootz owners who believe its Moline location “would command the marketplace.”

Commissioners asked about dispensary’s hours. Mr. Fettner said he could not speak for Deeprootz, but it’s likely the Moline dispensary would be open the same hours as its only Quad Cities competition. Nature’s Treatment of Illinois (NIT) in Milan is open from 7 a.m. to  9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday.

Moline staff had recommended the commission approve the special-use permit for the dispensary along with its lengthy list of conditions. The planning board added the requirement to move the store’s entrance after Commissioner Jeff Nelson raised concerns that left turns into the dispensary off the avenue – a major east-west Moline artery in a busy business district – would create backups and safety concerns. 

A study commissioned by Moline staff determined the traffic and parking demands created by the dispensary “can be accommodated by the existing access, roadway network, and parking supply with no modifications necessary.” The site has dedicated turn lanes, is adjacent to other businesses and is on the No. 30 MetroLINK route, the staff report said. 

The proposed site’s proximity to Interstate 74 and its central location along Avenue of the Cities also “makes this an ideal location for both a local and regional customer base,” the report said.

Commissioner Nelson, who also is CEO and managing director of MetroLINK, remained concerned, however, about the heavy Avenue of the Cities traffic and the vehicles that go into and out of the BP gas station across the avenue from the dispensary site. He also was concerned that to get to the shop from the Avenue of the Cities motorists driving from the west would have to cross multiple lanes of traffic. 

To reduce the safety issues, the commission recommended putting the main entrance on 27th Street as well as designing the roadway access on the avenue side to ensure only right turns for in and out Avenue of the Cities traffic. Mr. Dolan, who’s building had recently been crashed into by a car, also endorsed the change. 

The panel and staff also agreed to Mr. Fettner’s request that the dispensary be allowed to put up signage directing customers to the facility’s new main entrance. 

For Mr. Dolan, the dispensary would mark the end of a long journey surrounding the property. The owner of Davenport-based Dolan Homes, Inc. bought multiple properties at the site years ago, after Aldi built a new store many blocks east of its former site.

Mr. Dolan said he spent several years clearing the property, including demolishing the El Pavito family restaurant building and an old gas station at the corner of 27th Street and Avenue of the Cities.

His original plan was to create a high-end strip mall with a Starbucks on the corner. After a long process, Starbucks opted out of the deal and Mr. Dolan went back to the drawing board. He created what Ryan Hvitlok, Moline’s community and economic development director, called the attractive brick- and stucco-clad development that currently houses three tenants: a barbershop, Suzi’s slots and a pizza-by-the-slice business.

Mr. Dolan said he was pleased by the description. “It took me a long time to get to this point” and it was “a long road to make it look like that from what I bought,” Mr. Dolan said.  

According to the business’ special-use permit application, Mr. Dolan’s overall property is a 2.1-acre tract of land zoned Neighborhood Center (NC) District and improved with a multi-tenant commercial building. The proposed dispensary sales location is the southern portion of the former Aldi. NC districts are designed to provide small-scale commercial uses – generally in buildings 10,000 square feet or smaller – that serve the needs of surrounding area residents, according to the staff report. 

The recommendation also said that a cannabis dispensary is part of a Moline Comprehensive Plan that was designed to “promote development of new business and institutions.”

While not specifically mentioned in the comprehensive plan, the report said “the cannabis industry is part of the ‘new economy’ the plan was designed to attract.”

As part of its initial recommendation to the commission, staff included 20 conditions the project must meet. Among them are:

  • Compliance with all laws and administrative rules, including the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
  • In addition to state-imposed security requirements, the dispensary must install and maintain security, video surveillance, and inventory protection and control systems according to a plan approved by Moline’s police chief prior to opening and reviewed each year after that. It also must comply with any other safeguards the chief requires in response to special security concerns.
  • In addition to state-imposed air treatment requirements, the zoning administrator may impose additional air treatment requirements to control odor.
  • The applicant must comply with all state, county, and city regulations governing cannabis waste.
  • Drive-thru windows and curbside delivery are prohibited on the property.
  • On-premises cannabis consumption is prohibited at the dispensary in any form, including its parking lot, or anywhere on the property. 
  • No person under the age of 21 will be permitted to enter the business.
  • The dispensary is subject to random and unannounced inspections by local law enforcement and, when a reasonable cause of a violation exists, the dispensary will be subject to inspections by the zoning administrator, police department or other city agents.


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