To sell marijuana in downtown Oswego or to not sell marijuana in downtown Oswego. That was the question considered Thursday evening, Nov. 7, by members of the village's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at Village Hall.
After a lengthy discussion, commission members deadlocked on the question in a 3-3 tie vote.
The outcome of the commission's vote will be forwarded to the village board. The board will, in turn, cast the final vote on an ordinance that would regulate the location and operation of marijuana businesses in the village.
Adult use recreational marijuana will become legal in Illinois effective Jan. 1 under legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in June by Governor JB Pritzker.
Under the new state law, the village and other municipalities and counties across the state have the option of permitting and regulating retail and production marijuana businesses under their own local zoning ordinances. They also have the option of barring the businesses.
Municipalities who permit the businesses will be able to levy a sales tax of up to 3% on all local retail marijuana sales.
A non-scientific online survey conducted last summer by the village to gauge public interest and support showed that 64 percent of respondents would approve seeing marijuana distributed in the downtown core area.
"People have come up to me and said they would really like (cannabis shops) to be downtown. They'd really like to walk to their cannabis distributor from their downtown house if the village allows it," said Dominick Cirone, a commission member.
Commission members Rebecca Stine and Karen Novy, who gave the additional two votes in favor of downtown sales, agreed.
"I would have been for allowing it to be zoned in the downtown area," Stine said.
For Commission Member Rick Kuhn, the key is taking into consideration each resident's wants and concerns.
"I want to try to show respect for all villagers in Oswego, and that's tough to do, but I've definitely heard strongly on both sides (of this topic)," he said.
Village board members will ultimately make the final recommendation as to whether shops are allowed to locate throughout the downtown corridor, despite the commission's split recommendation.
"Any ordinance is a malleable document that can change anytime," said Chairman Charlie Pajor.
And, if it does come back to the commission for more review, I don't think any member will be upset.
"It's been interesting," said Cirone. "It's one of the more interesting topics we've had, and the most controversial ones we've had, too, I suppose."
"And, It certainly got a lot more people coming out (to meetings)," Pajor said with a grin.
Village Board members will discuss the Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation at an upcoming meeting.