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Normal OKs 2 new pot dispensaries; seats Andy Byars as newest member

Normal resident Jeremy Masters addresses the Normal Town Council during its meeting Monday, May 1, 2023, at City Hall in Uptown Station.
Michele Steinbacher
/
WGLT
Normal resident Jeremy Masters addresses the Normal Town Council during its meeting on Monday, May 1, 2023, at City Hall in Uptown Station.

Normal’s second and third pot shops are good to go, after the Normal Town Council on Monday approved both cannabis dispensary projects.

High Haven will open in the former Mandarin Garden Chinese restaurant, off College Avenue near Veterans Parkway. Meanwhile, Revolution will be in north Normal, in a strip mall off Raab Road. Both are expected to open around August.

Also at the meeting, the council seated its newest member, Andy Byars, approved Wishbone Canine Rescue’s plan to open a facility in west Normal, and approved spending about $425,000 on water infrastructure projects.

Before voting on the dispensary permits, the council extensively discussed the town’s special-use permit ordinance.

That was somewhat in response to how council members reported hearing from a divided community about the issue — especially pertaining to the locations.

City Manager Pam Reece said that in June, the council will meet for a work session to revisit those rules, including such factors as whether to cap the number of such outlets in the town.

But for Monday, the council agreed to judge the two applicants on meeting criteria set in place back in 2019, when the state announced it would legalize recreational pot in January 2020.

“It is unfair to move the goal post, now that we sense opposition” from some members of the community, said council member Karyn Smith.

Andy Byars, second from right, is sworn in as the newest member of the Normal Town Council, on Monday, May 1, 2023, at City Hall in Uptown Station.
Michele Steinbacher
/
WGLT
Andy Byars, second from right, is sworn in as the newest member of the Normal Town Council, on Monday, May 1, 2023, at City Hall in Uptown Station.

After hearing nearly a dozen public comments — with all but one opposing marijuana retailers operating at the two locations — the council voted to issue the special-use permits to Glenview-based High Haven and Chicago-based Revolution.

Although many people had signed up Monday to provide public comment, Mayor Chris Koos told the crowd filling the council chambers that he would not extend the comment period beyond the standard 30-minutes allotted.

Back in February, when High Haven's original proposal came before council, he did extend the time, and dozens of people addressed the council with concerns.

“We are not tonight making a decision about whether recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois,” said council member Scott Preston, noting the state decision came at the state level.

Byars takes seat with council

Byars was elected in the April 4 municipal election. He replaces Stan Nord. Council members Kathleen Lorenz and Karyn Smith were re-elected to their seats. All three were sworn in prior to the start of the meeting.

On Monday, Byars thanked voters for electing him, and said he looks forward to the work ahead.

Koos praised the higher voter turnout in April's election. At 27%, it was more than twice the percentage of voters who came out four years ago, in the last non-mayoral council cycle. The mayor urged Normal residents to continue to pay attention to local elections.

More pot shops opening in Normal

In February, Normal rejected the High Haven proposal to open in the former Mandarin Garden restaurant, 106 Mall Drive, on the north side of the Shoppes at College Hills.

One concern the first time it was proposed, was traffic around the Mall Drive location. It’s near several popular fast-food restaurants.

The owners of High Haven want to open a cannabis dispensary at 106 Mall Drive in Normal. That's the current location of the Mandarin Garden restaurant.
Town of Normal
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Meeting Materials
The High Haven cannabis dispensary at 106 Mall Drive in Normal is expected to open by fall. That's the current location of the Mandarin Garden restaurant.

On Monday, High Haven returned to council with a revised proposal. This version adds 15 parking spots, bringing the total to 42. It also adds more paving and landscaping, and adds security updates to an already-created security plan.

The council voted unanimously in favor of it opening at that location. Council member Kevin McCarthy noted High Haven owners already had met requirements with the lower number of spots.

Normal staff says although High Haven likely will generate more traffic, it would be comparable to other retail businesses that would use the same space, according to council materials.

Still, the owners will adjust the plan to create one-way traffic for entering vehicles, and another one-way for those exiting to address the traffic concern.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz said she'd like the town to address traffic in that area regardless.

Revolution is a Chicago-based cannabis company that operates retail locations in four states. It also runs a large cultivation facility in Delavan, about 35 miles west of Bloomington-Normal.

The new proposal would put a Revolution dispensary at 1609 Northbrook Drive, a strip mall in north Normal that’s near other businesses, apartments, and a mobile home park.
Town of Normal
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Proposed facade sign
Chicago-based Revolution marijuana dispensary, at 1609 Northbrook Drive, Normal, should open by fall.

Normal OK’d Revolution opening at 1609 Northbrook Drive, in a strip mall storefront off Raab Road, just down the road from The Corn Crib and Heartland Community College.

The retail spot is near other businesses, apartments, and a mobile home park. The plan was submitted by Mark Steinmetz of Arizona through his company, Illinois Health & Wellness LLC.

He spoke at Monday's meeting.

Other tenants in the Northbrook Drive space include Gloria Jean’s Coffees, a Maytag coin laundry, and offices for the McLean County Emergency Management Services System.

Revolution will have 50 spaces for its business. It also plans a separate entrance for pedestrian traffic,and an extensive security system. It would be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m, six days a week, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The owners expect to employ about 25 employees, Steinmetz said.

The Revolution permit was OK'd on a 5-2 vote. Preston and Lorenz voted "no," with both voicing concerns that traffic would be a problem at the Northbrook Drive location.

Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013. But in 2019, state law changed so that starting in January 2020, adults over 21 could possess it for recreational use.

Normal created an ordinance to allow marijuana-related businesses to open, but only if granted special-use permits in business-zoned areas.

Rules call for the dispensary to not allow consumption on site, and for the building to be at least 200 feet away from R-1 single-family use zones, and at least 100 feet from an already existing church, school or day care center.

But until Monday, Normal had only issued one permit: That was in early 2020, for the business now known as Beyond-Hello that operates on Northtown Road, just north of Interstate 55.

That retailer also has a pot shop in Bloomington, off Veterans Parkway near G.E. Road.

Wishbone to open west Normal site

With the council’s approval Monday, Wishbone Canine Rescue will use a former veterinary clinic at 1824 W. Hovey Ave. as a canine rescue and dog foster operation. It includes a building, and outdoor spaces and two fenced-in kennels.

The site had operated as Kruger Animal Hospital for more than half a century, until that business moved to a different location.

The zoning board unanimously OK’d the plan April 20.

Wishbone’s kennel will be near the recently approved housing development, Infiniti Pointe. As part of the agreement with the town to minimize noise issue, Wishbone will add a 6-foot privacy fence along the north property line, and plant greenery on the outside of that fence. The town also requires dogs not be allowed in outdoor kennels after 7 p.m.

Sump pump, storm sewer project

The council awarded a nearly $425,000 contract to Stark Excavating to oversee this year’s sump pump discharge and storm sewer improvements project.

This project will address areas of drainage concerns related to sump pump discharges throughout the town. Sump pumps that pour onto streets and sidewalks cause icing and moisture that deteriorates pavement in some cases, according to the council materials.

This project puts pipes in public rights-of-way to intercept the discharges that drain toward the street or into yards. Those pipes will connect these locations into the storm sewer system.

Bloomington-based Stark had the lowest of two bids. Work should begin this month, and continue throughout the year at various locations.

In other business, the council:

  • Rejected over-estimate bids for a Beech Street repavement project. Instead, the town will reserve about $400,000 for Normal staff to handle patching and repaving there. The area affected is between Basswood Lane and Raab Road.
  • Authorized spending about $110,000 to buy two 1-ton Ford F550 trucks. Taylorville-based Bob Ridings submitted the lowest of two bids. The trucks are for  snow removal and street repairs.
  • Renewed an automated parking enforcement system, using a license plate reader system. The one-year contract is for $26,000.
  • Leased  office space at 108 E. Beaufort St. to  U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria. The $15,000 annual lease runs until January 2025, coinciding with his term. 

Michele Steinbacher was a WGLT correspondent, joining the staff in 2020. She left the station in 2024.