Daniel Biss.

In an effort to increase funding for its reparations program, Evanston officials are seeking to attract more cannabis dispensaries to town.

Mayor Daniel Biss last month sent letters to the nearly 120 businesses issued new conditional adult use dispensing licenses for the Chicago region offering city help in finding space for a new dispensary here and indicating that tax increment financing “may be available to assist with leasehold improvements.”

The city’s economic development manager, Paul Zalmezak, says so far one business owner has replied, indicating an interest in conducting additional research on the Evanston market.

The letter included a map showing zoning districts where dispensaries might be located — and marking the 500 foot exclusion area around schools.

The map also indicates a 1,500 foot exclusion area around the existing Zen Leaf dispensary on Maple Avenue, but Zalmezak says social equity applicants issued licenses by the state may be able to locate within that zone.

The city has pledged to spend the first $10 million in revenue from the 3% municipal tax on cannabis sales on the reparations program — and had hoped that money would pour in at a rate of $1 million a year.

But so far, with only one dispensary in town, the local cannabis tax revenue has fallen far short of that goal.

Properties available for rent in the eligible zones include several on Central, Dempster and Main streets and on Chicago Avenue.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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