© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Normal council advances proposal to adjust buffer zones for marijuana dispensaries

Normal Town Council member Kathleen Lorenz at a previous council meeting.
Emily Bollinger
WGLT file
In this file photo, Normal Town Council member Kathleen Lorenz speaks at an event.

The Normal Town Council has advanced a proposal to adjust its buffer zones for marijuana dispensaries.

But at least one council member said the vote at Wednesday’s council meeting only supports the process — not necessarily the proposed text amendment.

“It’s not comprehensive enough for me,” said Kathleen Lorenz.

Wednesday’s unanimous vote formally initiated a motion to consider amending the zoning rules for the special permits that allow dispensaries. Town staff drafted the proposal after a June work session.

Key changes are adding more separation between marijuana retailers and schools, daycares and churches; as well as codifying a state rule requiring 1,500 feet between cannabis dispensaries.

A public hearing on the amendment will be Aug. 10, immediately before the Normal Planning Commission meets, at Uptown Station. The earliest the council would vote on the proposed change is Aug. 21.

The proposed language changes are based on suggestions where the council already has found common ground, and isn't the final, vetted document, said Lorenz.

“I want to be clear that is just a draft,” she said.

Beyond the proposed changes, Lorenz also urged the town to consider capping the number of dispensaries in town, and expanding buffer zones to add space between the facilities and different types of residential areas.

Currently, the zoning rules require a 200-foot buffer between cannabis retailers and R-1 zones (single-family homes). But no buffer is required for other residential areas, such as R-2 and R-3 multiple-family that include apartments and town homes.

No other council members or members of the public commented on the proposal Wednesday.

In other business, the council approved:

  • A contract renewal with Champaign Signal & Lighting Co. for traffic control equipment, highway lighting, and utility location services. The town expects to pay about $160,000 for the annual agreement, said assistant city manager Eric Hanson.  
  • Spending about $50,000 for a stump cutter from Vermeer Midwest; and about $40,000 to replace the town's fuel management and pump system from Illinois Oil Marketing Equipment.
  • Amended a parking license agreement between Normal Public Library and Rutherford Suites.
Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe, left, and Normal Mayor Chris Koos appeared at a McLean County Chamber of Commerce event on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe, left, and Normal Mayor Chris Koos.

Normal, Bloomington mayors share same birthday

Minneapolis-St. Paul may be the most well-known U.S. community to bear the "Twin Cities” moniker. But more than two dozen metro areas bear the same nickname, including Bloomington-Normal here in McLean County.

One date on the July calendar makes McLean County’s Twin Cities a real standout in this category though.

“The mayors of both Bloomington and Normal will be celebrating birthdays this week. So, happy birthday to them both. How lucky are we?” Normal council member Chemberly Harris said as Wednesday’s meeting came to a close.

She acknowledged the two men probably wouldn't want her drawing attention to their milestones. But she thought it was worth sharing, she said.

“Your birthdays are on the same day. That’s pretty cool,” Harris said to Koos.

He turns 75 on Thursday, while Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe turns 53.

Koos has served as Normal mayor for more than 20 years. The longtime town resident actually was born in Bloomington.

Mwilambwe was born a bit further away – in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Elected Bloomington’s first Black mayor in 2021, Mwilambwe has lived in this area’s Twin Cities for more than half his life, having first arrived in 1990. The mayor is in DRC this week, visiting family.

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