Retail Weed Sale Fails Once More

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For the second time in four months, a vote to amend an ordinance allowing for the retail sale of adult use cannabis in the city of Litchfield passed, but not by enough.

After failing to get the two-thirds majority when it was discussed during the April 16 council meeting (it failed 5-3), a motion to amend the Litchfield zoning ordinance to allow for the retail sale of adult use cannabis passed during the council meeting on July 2, but only by a 4-4 margin, with Mayor Steve Dougherty breaking the tie.

The failure to get the two-thirds majority again meant that the motion failed and yielded the next two items, an ordinance establishing a license for cannabis sales and implementation of a three percent tax on those sales, moot.

Mayor Dougherty said that after the decision the council could look forward to several months of budget discussions and that the city may have to raise property taxes for the first time in nine years. He said without the pandemic causing a decrease in sales tax revenue, the city needs to look at different sources of revenue.

Alderman Woody Street responded to the mayor, saying that he believed that the sales tax would rebound and was confident that the economy would come back.

Prior to the vote, Pete Drummond spoke up against the motion during a public hearing before the regular meeting. Drummond, who objected to the placement of the retail store at Greenhouse Inc.’s current medical marijuana sales facility, said that the company could have a secondary site if they just paid a $30,000 application fee. 

Drummond also recommended that Greenhouse look at a secondary site, possibly in the strip mall off of Corvette Drive and Ferdon Street. He added that site would provide plenty of parking, would not back up traffic on Rt. 16 and would solve many of the problems he foresaw with the proposed site off Rt. 16.

Drummond also cited parking and crowding issues at the Morton and Collinsville dispensaries as a reason to look at secondary locations.

Monte Spiers of Greenhouse would also speak during the public meeting. Spiers said that he did not expect the problems with traffic and parking that the Collinsville dispensary had battled, saying it was a much smaller community and would not see the volume Collinsville has.

Spiers added that he believed the Litchfield location’s current lot and an auxiliary lot would be plenty of parking spaces for the proposed retail outlet.

During discussion of the first motion, Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson stated that she did not like the way the ordinance was worded, but that she had spoken to her constituents and they wanted her to vote for the measures.

Mayor Dougherty said that the ordinances were modeled after other communities and were what the state wanted. Sisson said that instead of following others, maybe Litchfield should establish it’s own guidelines.

City Attorney Kit Hantla said that since the law allowing for adult use marijuana is so new, there is no direction from the courts. Hantla said that the best that Litchfield can do is go from what the Illinois Municipal League has advised and what other communities have approved.

Mayor Dougherty added that the council is not voting whether to allow for legal use of marijuana, just legal sale. He said that he was not in favor of the law allowing for legal use, but that it was a state decision.

Alderman David Hollo said that he did not believe that the city could be sure that it followed the law in regards to giving proper notification to affected property holders. 

Hantla said that he believes that Litchfield’s notification was sufficient and would be upheld by any reviewing court. He believed that the city gave reasonable notice, sending out letters by certified mail, running public notices and reviewing the ordinances in the planning commission four times.

When the vote was called, the council would split 4-4, with Hollo, Sisson, Street and Mark Brown voting no, while Kassidy Paine, Ray Kellenberger, Tim Wright and Dwayne Gerl voted yes. Mayor Dougherty would break the tie, but again, the motion would not carry by a two-thirds majority.

After the vote, Mayor Dougherty commented that Sisson voted no, even though her constituents wanted the motion to pass. Sisson said she would explain her decision to them.

The motion was one of two to pass by a split vote. The other was pay request #5 from Brewster Construction, Inc., for the amount of $330,018.65 for work on the Eagle Ridge subdivision. Gerl, Sisson and Brown voted no on the motion, as they have regarding Eagle Ridge items the last several meetings.

Also passing on Thursday were motions to approve the modification period for the general obligation bond series 2018 for the west side development for six months, renewal of membership with the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation for $6,939, pay requests to Kamalduski Excavating and Grading for $63,964.02 and to Hudson Surety Company for $133,505.96 for work on the I-55 commerce park and the purchase of a Nasco Advanced Airway Larry AMT Head with stand and case for a cost of $999.99.

Two other lake items also passed in addition to the Brewer pay request. The council approved a resolution of support for the IEPA Section 319 Grant under the Clean Water Act and accepted a proposal from Crawford, Murphy and Tilly for services regarding the 319 Grant application for an amount not to exceed $5,000.

Crawford, Murphy and Tilly also received authorization to prepare a basis of design reports to determine the chemical feed rates and evaluate two options for location of the chemical feed equipment with budget construction costs at the Litchfield Wastewater Treatment Facility for an amount is not to exceed $77,500.

A motion to accept a COPS office hiring grant from the US Justice Department and an intergovernmental agreement with the Litchfield School District also passed, which will provide the district with a school resource officer for the next four years.

Alderman Wright said that there have been financial reasons in the past for not having a school resource officer, but he was glad this grant went through as he believes it will be good for the school, the community and the police department. Mayor Dougherty agreed, saying the only down side is that after four years, Litchfield will need to come up with additional funding for the position.

The meeting adjourned at 6:51 p.m. They will meet next on July 16, at 6:30 p.m.

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