GALENA, Ill. — A divided City of Galena Zoning Board voted this week to urge City Council members to allow recreational cannabis businesses in limited portions of the city.
Zoning board members voted, 5-2, to ask the council to adopt an ordinance that would permit the businesses in certain neighborhoods. The proposed ordinance previously was considered by the council and referred to the lower board for review.
Zoning board members Kimberly Cook and Bill Nybo opposed.
State of Illinois lawmakers this year voted to legalize sales of recreational marijuana, a move that is effective Jan. 1. Municipal leaders will have the option to enact ordinances that place limitations on the businesses.
During a discussion, several board members expressed concerns about having the businesses in the city’s downtown.
The proposed ordinance restricts cannabis dispensaries within 250 feet of residential properties or within 1,000 feet of a school or day care. That only leaves the area between Commerce and Water streets, or the city’s industrial park.
Cook said the businesses should not be allowed downtown and instead should only be allowed in the industrial park.
“I just don’t know if downtown commercial is the area,” Cook said. “All those other towns don’t have tourism like we do. I think a lot of people come to this town for the quaintness.”
Nybo said the ordinance should start with limiting cannabis dispensaries to the industrial park, but allow for the expansion into downtown if deemed necessary in the future.
“Why don’t we see how this works out in the industrial area, and then we can always open up a text amendment to bring it downtown if we want to,” Nybo said.
The only resident to speak during the meeting, Rick Pariser, also expressed opposition to allowing the dispensaries downtown.
“It’s upsetting to me personally,” Pariser said. “We as government are sanctioning an activity that is basically injurious to your health.”
Other board members expressed support for the ordinance as it was presented.
Jim Baranski said he felt the zoning board should comply with the wishes of the City Council, which voted, 6-1, in favor of the ordinance last month.
“I think, if anything, if you were to try to say what is representing how the people feel about it, I think you almost have to think that the council voting 6-1 is a suggestion of how the people feel,” Baranski said.
John Rosenthal, chairman of the zoning board, said many of the concerns are unfounded.
“Every time you are going to do something, (people say), ‘You are going to kill Galena,’” Rosenthal said. “Walmart was going to kill Galena. People are still going into this town, and Walmart has been here for years.”