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Normal town leaders reconsider rules for new marijuana dispensaries

Chris Koos and Pam Reece
Emily Bollinger
The Normal Town Council meets Monday, June 5, 2023, at city hall in Uptown Station.

Normal leaders are considering stricter limits on how the town moves forward with adding marijuana dispensaries, with a formal conversation taking shape Monday before the town council’s regular meeting.

Some possible changes include capping the number of such stores, and further restricting where they can operate.

The town currently has issued special-use permits to three such businesses. Two more are considering applying for similar permits, said Mayor Chris Koos. One of those could potentially open on Greenbriar Drive.

The 30-minute discussion followed a mixed community response this spring, during the process of issuing special-use permits for the town’s second and third dispensaries. High Haven will be in the former Mandarin Garden restaurant near the Shoppes at College Hills; and Revolution will open in a strip mall along Raab Road.

There were some concerns” after those proposals, said Koos, leading council members to convene the session. “There was community push back on some of the issues, in terms of location, and how many we’re going to have.”

During the work session, the council also heard an update on Normal’s Smart Cities initiative, focused on the town’s efforts to be a leader in technology and connectivity.

Later, during the regular meeting, the council OK’d spending about $2 million on road work as part of the town's annual street resurfacing program; and approved a third addition to the Trails on Sunset Lake, a neighborhood near Airport and Fort Jesse roads.

The Normal Town Council meets Monday, June 5, 2023, at city hall in Uptown Station.
Emily Bollinger
The Normal Town Council meets Monday, June 5, 2023, at city hall in Uptown Station.

Leaders reconsider rules about marijuana stores

Monday’s discussion about Normal’s marijuana dispensary ordinance is preliminary, said City Manager Pam Reece.

Normal planner Mercy Davison shared a presentation with the council on Monday, outlining the state’s past decade of easing into legalized marijuana — first with medical marijuana in 2013, and seven years later with adult-use recreational marijuana.

Davison displayed a comparative chart detailing Normal’s ordinance, and how it compares to ones in Bloomington, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield and Peoria. Bloomington has a two-dispensary cap.

Currently, Normal limits dispensaries from being near R-1 single residential areas, but some council members want to broaden that to higher density housing, such as R-2 and R-3 zones. “You know families live there, too,” said council member Kathleen Lorenz.

One key point is Normal opted to default to the state’s current rule of 1,500 feet separation between pot dispensaries. But Normal’s ordinance doesn’t specify that figure, so if the state changes it, Normal’s rules by default would change, too.

“My sense is the council wants to codify that as well,” to put the town on a more-even playing field with surrounding communities, Koos told WGLT after the meeting.

Rowe Construction gets road work contract

This $1.9 million phase of the annual street improvement plan calls for nearly 20 streets to get attention.

Rowe Construction of Bloomington will manage the project that will include Beech Street work that had previously had bids rejected.

In other business, the council approved:

  • A third addition to the Trails on Sunset Lake, a neighborhood near Airport and Fort Jesse roads. This change makes way for about three dozen additional single-family homes and duplexes.  
  • A $162,000 contract with Stark Excavating for emergency sewer repairs near Airport and Fort Jesse roads, waiving bid requirements.
  • A two-year contract extension with J. Spencer Construction, after the company spent one year working on town projects tied to its Americans with Disability Act transition plan. At the end of the three-year period, the town will have spent more than $500,000 to improve accessibility, said City Manager Pam Reece.
  • A five-year contract for elevator maintenance, with KONE, for about $140,000. 
  • Spending about $325,000 on annual technology contracts: $137,000 for Microsoft Office; and about $188,000 for Central Square software.
  • Plans for Pizza Payaa to add a pergola to cover outdoor seating at 107 E. Beaufort Street. The business will open in the former Firehouse Pizza building.
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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