Monticello aldermen are urging constituents to show up at next Monday nights’ planning and zoning board session and express their feelings on the possible sale of recreational cannabis in town.
But after no input from its citizenry in five separate council discussions, they are wondering if that input will ever roll in.
“My suspicion is that people care less than we think they care,” said Alderman Jeremy Jones at the latest city council session on Sept. 9.
It’s a scene being played out in other communities as well. No one testified on the cannabis sales issue at a Savoy planning commission last month, and turnout was limited to about 10 people when it was discussed recently in Urbana.
“There has also been little public interest one way or another, and from larger bodies than ours,” said Alderman Wendall Brock, who on Monday was serving as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Larry Stoner.
Towns are learning on the fly after Illinois approved the recreational use of marijuana starting Jan. 1. Even the state has admitted there is enough confusion that additional legislation may be needed to clarify it.
One things is clear, though. Communities can vote to opt out of the sale of cannabis within their jurisdictions if choose to.
For Monticello, that decision will not come this month. The PZB next week will deal only with the issue of a temporary moratorium on cannabis businesses locating within the city. It is a move being made to give the council time to craft legislation on how it will handle marijuana sales, if at all.
“Next Monday I’m anticipating the PZB holding a public hearing, and hopefully gathering some public input and voting on the moratorium to get back in front of you on Sept. 23,” said City Administrator Terry Summers.
“This moratorium will simply allow this council to conduct more research and garner more public input until a decision can be made in the near future,” added Summers.
Alderman Mike Koon asked if the zoning body should consider more than just a moratorium when it meets at 7 p.m. Sept. 16.
It has been noted that local regulations will likely be crafted through zoning requirements, such as setbacks and where cannabis sellers could be located.
Fellow council member John Frerichs felt that one issue was enough to put on the PZB for now.
“I don’t think that they need to have any more on their plate at that meeting,” said Frerichs. “I think it’s going to be a lot of information to digest, so I think it would be important that they have the time to digest that and not have to make a decision at that time.”
The planning and zoning board meeting will be held in the city council chambers. Any recommendation made would also need city council approval in order to go into effect.
Council members on Monday did enact a 3 percent sales tax on all recreational cannabis sales. Summers said the Illinois Municipal League recommended the measure be enacted by Sept. 30 for the sales tax to be on the books for 2020.
Summers said it is a preemptive move, and “does not bind the city to allow or opt out of the sale of recreational cannabis.”
Alderman Rodney Burris was still concerned with how it would appear.
“My only concern is it looks like we’re already approving (sales),” said Burris. “I know that’s not what it says, but that’s kind of how it looks.”
The council voted 5-1 to approve the sales tax, with Burris voting “no.”
Aldermen applauded the Monticello Recreation Foundation for its recent meeting to outline efforts to develop a 30-acre recreation complex on the west side of Monticello.
“I would encourage anyone who is interested to consider joining one of their committees,” said Frerichs.
Those wanting to volunteer can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message the foundation through its Facebook site.
Summers said the streetscape work on West Washington Street will not be complete by Monticellobration on Sept. 21, but that the sidewalk and street would still be usable by then.
“Provisions will be made to make the area open to pedestrian traffic for that event,” he said. “Most of the concrete work is done. The metal, decorative hand railing will not be installed, so they will do a temporary, wooden railing.”
Brock reminded the community that this Friday is the Monticello High School football team’s first home game of the season.
With the school construction project limiting parking spots, he urged local residents to find alternate methods of travel if attending the contest.
“If you are friend and family and attend the game, and you have any other way – ride a bicycle, walk, whatever – to get there, I encourage you to do so,” said Brock.