Geneva to hold public hearing on potential cannabis sales

Updated 9/24/2019 6:59 PM

Geneva will hold a public hearing to ask residents if the city should allow recreational cannabis sales when a new state law takes effect Jan. 1.

During Monday's committee of the whole meeting, the city council backed Mayor Kevin Burn's suggestion to send the matter to the planning and zoning commission for a hearing.


In the meantime, officials agreed to impose the allowable 3% tax if cannabis sales are approved.

Burns said Monday's meeting was designed to generate ideas and give the board direction.

During the lively discussion, aldermen and residents differed on whether the city should "opt out" or "opt in."

Projected annual tax revenue could range from $50,000 to $500,000, City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins said.

"It's anybody's guess," she said.

Beyond the revenue, the discussion centered around how the decision will affect Geneva's character.

"Would the committee agree we're not going to really have any impact on consumption of this product?" Alderman Mike Clements asked. "What are we really debating? Are we debating the morality?"

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Alderman Mike Bruno agreed.

"If you want to make a moral point," he said, "it would be hypocritical to not make that same point on nicotine."

Alderman Craig Maladra said the issue is whether the sale of marijuana is consistent with the city's image.

"What does it do for Geneva?" he asked. Approval could enhance revenue but "it also positions us as a community that puts revenue ahead of the social aspect of what we're approving."

Some aldermen urged a "wait and see" approach.

"What's the rush?" Maladra said.

Alderman Jeanne McGowan said she favors allowing cannabis sales now because the city can't assume licenses will be available down the road.

In addition to increased revenue, she said, cannabis shops would address issues Geneva has with empty space and vacant buildings.

"We should take advantage of the opportunity," she said.


That opportunity would give visitors "a reason to come to Geneva and enjoy our offerings," Economic Development Director Cathleen Tymoszenko said.

"(Distribution centers) wouldn't take away from Geneva's reputation at all," McGowan said.

Some audience members urged the council to oppose centers in the city.

"I'm here on behalf of the children," Geneva resident Debbie Kanarowski said.

But others wanted the city to allow distribution.

"It seems silly we wouldn't take advantage of this opportunity," resident Lauren Byron said.

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