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Sugar Grove trustees don’t support marijuana in town

The Sugar Grove Village Board of Trustees is choosing to pass on allowing recreational marijuana sales in town—at least for now.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the village board reached a consensus opting to adopt a resolution in opposition to action taken by the state of Illinois to legalize it beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

Village staff had prepared two ordinances ahead of time outlining guidelines for establishing and operating such uses, one that supported recreational marijuana sales, another that opposed it.

Among the opponents to recreational marijuana sales was Trustee Rick Montalto. He said he spent half of his life arresting people for selling or producing it.

“There’s so many bad things attached to this that I can’t in good conscience say,’ Yeah, I’m willing to sell my soul for this,’” Montalto said.

Trustee Ryan Walter called into question how much tax revenue could be gained.

“It’s not a big windfall as a lot of people think,” Walter said. “It’s money. It’s revenue I understand that, but it’s not like it goes that far for what we’re talking about—image and other people’s concerns.”

The Illinois Department of Revenues projects that the marijuana industry will generate $57 million in tax revenue in fiscal year 2020, according to a summary of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

Opting out of allowing marijuana sales does not prevent the village from receiving the tax dollars available to municipalities through the Local Government Distributive Fund, which includes money set aside each year as a transfer from the state’s General Fund.

The state of Illinois intends to place funds generated from recreational marijuana sales toward, among other things, the general fund, mental health and substance abuse services at local health departments, public education and awareness, and crime prevention/law enforcement training programs.

Taxes would be deposited in the Cannabis Regulation Fund, according to the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. Municipalities are able to enact a tax of up to 3% to everyone engaged in the business of selling marijuana at retail locations in the municipality.

As previously reported, the village of Sugar Grove was unlikely to support recreational marijuana sales with several trustees expressing opposition to it from the start of discussions in early August. Some trustees have said they wanted to keep an open mind on this issue as the village board sought to open up discussion before making a decision.

“I’m actually ok with opting in and having a dispensary here, although I have no desire to patronize it,” Trustee Jen Konen said. “At the end of the day, someone will.”

Konen said she thinks this is a hot button topic because of the stigma surrounding marijuana and its use.

Walter expressed opposition to allowing marijuana sales, saying it’s all about the revenue.

““That’s what the state is after—it’s the money,” he said.

Trustee Sean Herron said he understands why the issue is so divisive.

“I think that if we were to discuss this in two years, it wouldn’t even be a discussion topic,” he said. “It’s because it’s new. I think for 41 years of my life it’s been illegal, so I’m trying to take that out of the equation where it’s always been wrong and it’s an illegal substance. … It’s the legalization that is the big fight, and that fights not this fight.”

Walter begged to differ, saying it’s about the facts.

Herron said he sees many parallels between the restrictions placed upon marijuana businesses to those selling alcohol.

Trustee Heidi Lendi shared that sentiment, saying she views marijuana similar to alcohol. She acknowledged the village can choose to opt-in or opt-out and said she sees both sides to the issue.

“I’m very much on the fence personally,” Lendi said. “I probably would lean more … to allow it because of the possible control over the zoning. We can have some control on that. It’s legal. It’s not like it’s an illegal substance.”

Several people took time during the meeting to make their views of the village’s discussion known.

Sugar Grove resident Rachel Rockwell said that just because something is legal doesn’t mean the village should allow businesses to sell it in town. She acknowledged the concerns that some raised for missing an opportunity to bring in revenue and said the village has taken heat for decisions made in the past.

“With the tax situation, it just seemed like so much other projects that you guys decline, there was a lot more tax revenue that was possibly going to be coming from it,” Rockwell said. “It’s just interesting. If we’re just going to look at everything from a tax revenue perspective, what’s legal and who has the legal authority to do projects here, how are we going to interpret what comes and what doesn’t, if it’s all just going to be based on taxes? It seems like it should never be no.”

Sugar Grove resident Judie Childress said it is imperative that trustees get beyond the legalization of marijuana, as the state has already taken steps to make it a reality beginning next year. She wanted it to be clear that she has not taken a position in favor or in support of the village allowing marijuana sales.

“The community is depending on this board to make a well-informed decision on opting out of recreational cannabis businesses in the village of Sugar Grove,” Childress said. “The legalization of recreational cannabis is a huge ‘hot button’ topic that brings out personal prejudices and a lot of emotion from the majority of people.”

The idea of placing a referendum question on the March 2020 primary ballot arose in discussion. Village President Sean Michels said he thinks such action puts the village in the position of kicking the can down the road.

Marijuana is currently decriminalized for recreational use and legally permitted for medicinal use in Illinois.

Michels brought up the idea of Sugar Grove waiting a year to re-evaluate the village board’s decision.

Had trustees decided to allow recreational marijuana sales in town, potential businesses would have been restricted to a proposed overlay district, which is not encompassing of all of the village’s business districts, and set up shop in the areas allotted on the west side of Route 47 and Waubonsee Drive. Such uses also would have been required to meet all the zoning requirements of the underlying B-3 Regional Business or M-1 Limited Manufacturing district.

The village board’s decision prohibits business operations involving adult-use marijuana craft growers, cultivation centers, dispensing organizations, infusers, processors and transporters.

Hannaford Farm park transferred

In other business, the village board voted to authorize the sale of the Hannaford Farm park.

The village has been in talks since August with the Hannaford Farm Homeowner’s Association about transferring rights to the property.

Trustees directed staff earlier this month to prepare documents initiating the sale/transfer, so long as the park remains open to the public and includes a partial restriction to public access in the event that a swimming pool or tennis courts are built in the future.

The costs for the sale of the property includes attorney’s fees related to research and deed preparation estimated at $1,500, and the costs of publishing notices in newspapers estimated at $450, according to village board documents.

TIF boundary amendments discussed

Also at the meeting, trustees reached a consensus to follow staff’s recommendation to amend the boundaries of the village’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts, which are areas designated in town where the tax base is frozen to promote economic development.

Board consensus directs staff to remove portions included in the village’s TIF district No. 1 and include it in TIF district No. 2. This option includes both the 140 and 160 S. Municipal Drive buildings, but does not include the library.

Trustees had two options to choose from. The other scenario did not include the 140 and 160 S. Municipal Drive buildings or the library.

Harter Road property

In another development, the village board took time to review a proposal seeking the annexation of property at the southwest corner of Harter Road and Sugar Grove Parkway.

The applicant and owner, BDM Holdings, does not yet have any uses for the property.

Sugar Grove’s future land use plan recognizes the property as a location for industrial uses.

In the meantime, the land will continue to allow for row crop farming.

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