Marijuana not 'good fit for the village,' Libertyville trustees say before rejecting proposal for advisory referendum

The question of whether marijuana should be sold at state-licensed dispensaries in Libertyville has been put to bed and appears unlikely to resurface anytime soon.

Circumstances this week were different from 2019 when the board unanimously enacted an ordinance prohibiting sales in town shortly before the practice became legal in Illinois.

But the result was the same as village leaders upheld the position voting 6-0 Tuesday against a resolution introduced by Mayor Donna Johnson to put a nonbinding, advisory referendum on the April 4 ballot.

Marijuana sales could be a potential revenue source for the village four or five years from now when expenditures are predicted to exceed revenues, Johnson said.

And because some residents are reluctant to voice their opinion publicly, an advisory referendum would be a way to gauge public sentiment, she added.

Trustees disagreed saying questions such as where a marijuana dispensary would be located should be answered before seeking voter opinion. Some trustees, as well as several speakers who addressed the board, also reiterated the underlying stance that marijuana sales wouldn't be a good fit in the village anyway.

An advisory referendum was the topic of an informal committee of the whole meeting in December but public comment took up most of the session before trustees could get into the details.

"It created more questions than answers and we, as a board, never really had the opportunity to discuss it among ourselves," Trustee Pete Garrity said of the December meeting. "It's pretty much become overwhelmingly 'No,' - we don't think marijuana is a good fit for the village."

Trustee Scott Adams said board members didn't want a dispensary in commercial districts, including those along routes 176 or 137.

Originally, there was some interest because of the potential revenue, he said adding, but that was tempered by the presence of Rise in Mundelein and a number of new dispensaries planned in Lake County that likely would snare customers coming from Wisconsin.

"The feeling was, 'Does Libertyville want to be identified as a cannabis dispensary town?' and nobody wanted that," he said.

Six people who addressed the board before the vote on the advisory referendum expressed similar sentiment.

Trustee Jim Connell said he initially was attracted to the potential marijuana sales revenue. But, he noted, the village now is getting $1 million from online sales tax that it wasn't getting before.

He said marijuana sales in Libertyville is a divisive issue and predicted an opposition campaign would be launched if an advisory question was on the ballot.

Before the vote, Connell and Trustee Matt Hickey posted they would be voting against an advisory referendum.

"Time to get to work on other important matters and table this topic for another day years from now, or perhaps never again," Connell said on social media.

Having a dispensary would have a "far greater negative impact" on the community than any monetary benefit, said Trustee Dan Love.

Johnson did not comment after the vote but later in the week said it was her job to introduce issues to the board and community that need to be considered, such as new revenue sources.

Johnson said she had spoken with experienced license holders with "quality facilities" that would have been compatible in Libertyville and would have liked to have known were residents stood.

"It's my role to bring the issue up and that's what I did," she said of the advisory referendum. "They (village board) made the appropriate decision based on what they heard."

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