A close vote to ratify the previously approved plans for the Blackstone Trails subdivision in Normal is a risky one for the town’s reputation, according to Mayor Chris Koos.
Koos said the town needs to be a dependable partner for developers, or it risks killing development.
“We certainly have to send a message to the developer we’re going to be a partner at the table to make this happen. We cannot send a message to that community to say we agree with you now, but we may disagree with you later," Koos said.
The mayor said council action approving preliminary plans causes developers to incur expenses in engineering and land use design. Koos also said in spite of the close vote on the Blackstone Trails proposal, he does not believe the council has yet sent an adverse signal to potential developers, because vigorous discussion resulted in what he believed was the correct vote.
Koos said he is concerned about passage of a fire station plan, though he believes it will go forward after the community weighs in on a design. The town has studied fire station coverage and bought land for a fire station. What happens if a future council says the station won’t be built at the Blackstone subdivision corner?
“Three things happen,” Koos said. “One, we have to find a different location that satisfies the plan. Two, we have a very expensive piece of property that we have no use for. And three, until this is all resolved, we have duplicate coverage in one area of the community and not optimal coverage in another area of the community.”
Council staff is working on bringing preliminary designs for the council’s consideration.
The Normal Town Council has moved the question of legal marijuana sales to the planning commission after former council member Jeff Fritzen raised concerns.
Koos said the planning commission's job will be to take public input on the issue.
“Based on that public input, (the commission will) recommend changes to the ordinance, recommend denials of the ordinance, or recommend approving the ordinance.”
Koos said he does not see a council member who is adamantly for or against allowing the sale of marijuana and are awaiting further information before making a full commitment either way.
“Here’s the reality they’re dealing with,” Koos said. “Marijuana consumption will be legal in the state of Illinois. And what’s our role as a municipality to deal with that in our community? It’s clear that marijuana will be in our community legally; it’s also very clear that marijuana is in our community illegally.”
Koos said The Green Solution, which operates a medical marijuana dispensary in north Normal, has still not reached out to the town about whether it wants to also sell recreational cannabis or expand to a second location.
“They were monitoring the meeting last night,” Koos said. “Representatives from that business were in the audience, I didn’t get a chance to talk to them.”
Koos is hoping to see some tweaks to the ordinance -- specifically, to buffer zones and costs for policing sales.
But how will the Normal Police avoid falling into the trap of the drug wars, which disproportionately affected people of color?
“If the marketplace can provide a more reliable product and a product that is regulated in a community, it’s probably better for the end user. A friend of mine and I came up with a slogan years ago and it was ‘The War on Drugs is Over, Drugs Won’ and that’s kind of the environment we’re in right now.”
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