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Many vie for single medical marijuana permit in Lee County

Two businesses interested in Dixon; new venture makes pitch for Amboy

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

DIXON – The city made the first of several moves needed to sell a piece of land for a medical marijuana cultivation center, while another business asked the county to consider its bid for a spot in Amboy.

Monday, the City Council voted to appraise a lot it owns in the Lee County Industrial Park, which must be done before the city can sell a piece of land. The council also must advertise for bids, and vote to approve the sale, which must be for at least 80 percent of the appraised value.

The council needs at least four votes – among its five members – to sell a piece of land.

The Lee County Industrial Development Association owns an adjacent lot in the industrial park, and John Thompson, the association’s president, said it has a contingent agreement to sell the lot to another company, if it is given a permit for a cultivation center.

Those two interested businesses make up half of the four companies interested in opening a cultivation center in Lee County.

Meanwhile, at the Lee County Board meeting Tuesday morning, Abdel Fahmy, an Elmhurst-based physician, made an unscheduled appearance to introduce his new venture, Agro Therapeutics, which aims to set up a grow site near Amboy.

Agro would commit 5 percent of its revenue to the county, Fahmy said, although he didn’t give an exact figure.

He hopes to, at a later date, receive a letter of support from the board – something another prospective grow operation received months ago.

In June, the Lee County Board signed a letter of support for AgriMed, a new company that, in partnership with Kreider Services, proposed to bring a grow operation to Green River Industrial Park northwest of Amboy.

Another business is interested in opening a cultivation center in Whiteside County.

Under state law, only one county in each Illinois State Police district will be allowed to have a “cannabis cultivation center.” District 1 includes Carroll, Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside counties.

Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said he’s also heard of a business interested in Ogle County.

At Monday’s council meeting, Commissioner Dennis Considine questioned the city’s process and whether some officials already had picked a business they prefer to get the permit.

Tuesday, Burke said he just hopes Dixon gets the one cultivation permit for the area’s Illinois State Police District, which covers Lee, Whiteside, Ogle and Carroll counties.

“I don’t have a dog in this hunt,” Burke said. “I absolutely don’t. I don’t care who gets this cultivation center. I just hope we get one.”

A cultivation center in Dixon would represent new construction and new jobs, Burke said.

According to the website for the state’s pilot program, applications for cultivation centers are likely to be accepted Sept. 8-22.

Thompson said businesses have been “coming out of the woods” to obtain land or agreements in the hope that they are chosen, and each seems confident it will have the successful application.

But at the local level, companies have a lot of hurdles to cross because of the way the state set up the approval process, Thompson said.

“We’re not trying to throw roadblocks,” he said. “We’re working with the way the state set it up. ... It has been kind of a moving target.”

Thompson compared the process to that for the first ethanol plants in the state, in that a lot of applicants chased a few permits.

Enterprise zone expansion

An enterprise zone in Lee County could be extended by 45 acres to accommodate a company looking to building an indoor vegetable-growing facility to the west of Rochelle.

The Dixon City Council voted Monday in favor of the expansion. Dixon and other local governments must approve the expansion.

Thompson declined to name the company Tuesday, referring to it as “Project Red.”

“We’re not trying to conceal what they do, just trying to keep their [corporate identification] under wraps [for now],” he said.

Because of drought conditions in California, Thompson said, some companies are looking at indoor growing operations in the Midwest where they can grow all year and get the water needed.

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