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Normal council OKs location restrictions on cannabis businesses

Kathleen Lorenz gestures while at the City Council meeting
Colin Hardman
Normal Council member Kathleen Lorenz speaking at Monday night's meeting.

After much debate, a new ordinance imposing restrictions on where recreational cannabis businesses can be located was approved Monday night by the Normal Town Council.

The council also approved improvements to College Avenue, as well as an agreement extension meant to help Illinois State University students in need of parking space.

The cannabis ordinance amends the town’s zoning code to require a 1,500-foot separation between cannabis businesses, and mandates a 200 foot-separation from schools and churches, doubling the previous 100-foot requirement.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz introduced an amendment capping the number of dispensaries in Normal at four, arguing public opinion is too split to fully embrace the industry.

To date, the town has OK’d three special-use permits for adult-use marijuana dispensaries: Beyond/Hello, 501 W. Northtown Road; High Haven, 106 Mall Drive; and Revolution, 1609 Northbrook Drive.

“No one voice is right, it’s not one set of voices right and the other wrong,” Lorenz said. “I think they both have merit. And that’s why we need to work harder at a more comprehensive compromise.”

Lorenz claimed that without a cap, Normal could see as many as eight dispensaries total — a claim other members met with skepticism. One, Scott Preston, shared Lorenz’s position, but the majority of the council felt the restrictions were stringent enough.

The amendment was defeated on a 5-2 vote, and the unaltered ordinance then passed 7-0.

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2013, but since 2020, adults in Illinois also can legally use recreational marijuana. Normal's special-use permit category for the recreational marijuana market will apply using the new location restrictions.

West College improvements

The council also allocated an additional $130,000 to improve West College Avenue between White Oak Road and Rivian Motorway. The new funding addresses increased traffic to the growing Rivian properties by adding additional turn lanes and traffic signals.

It also will help the larger construction work comply with Illinois Department of Transportation regulations. Farnsworth Group will continue to head up design for the expanded project.

In another matter, the council discussed gravel parking lots at 612 Kingsley St. and at 603 Dale St. that would ordinarily be paved in line with the town's building code. But for the last five years, they have benefited from a zoning board exception.

The council accepted a settlement that extends the deadline through summer of 2024, under the rationale that paving during the school year would leave about 80 ISU students without parking spaces.

Lorenz made up the dissenting side of the 6-1 vote, arguing the developer had chosen not to meet code and abused the town’s trust. Mayor Chris Koos expressed confidence the developer will meet the new commitment. If the lots are not paved or returned to green space on time, the town may begin charging $500 per day in fines.

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Colin Hardman is a correspondent at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.
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