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DANVILLE — Unexpectedly, instead of hearing about the city’s plans for a future casino development, Danville aldermen listened Tuesday night as citizens spoke out against allowing the sale of recreational marijuana in Danville.

A few also spoke against a casino, too.

With a handful of other local religious leaders standing with him, Pastor Thomas Miller said decisions are being made based on revenue for the city, referring to a resolution to tax the sale of recreational marijuana.

Miller also referenced the proposed casino development as being a revenue-based decision.

“We would prefer that we not be a community giving its blessing for the use of marijuana or other types of drugs,” he said.

Miller said he has heard the argument that a marijuana dispensary will go to Tilton or elsewhere in the county if not Danville, so the city might as well allow sales to capture the tax revenue.

“Well, so what?” Miller said of the idea of a dispensary going elsewhere.

His statement garnered applause from other attendees.

Resident Vince Koers said that while the idea is that a pot tax will make the city a lot of money, “I think every nickel brought in will be spent mopping up the problems it creates.”

Some aldermen also spoke passionately against allowing sales.

“All money is not good money,” Alderman R.J. Davis said, just before the council voted 9-3 (with Rick Strebing absent) in favor of the resolution stating the city’s desire to allow for the sale of recreational marijuana. It imposes a 3 percent tax on sales.

Aldermen Davis, Brenda Brown and Sharon Pickering cast the three “no” votes.

Some citizens who objected to allowing sales told aldermen that if they did approve sales, they should dedicate any tax revenue from a dispensary to police initiatives and social services addressing issues related to marijuana use and preventive measures.

Danville business owner Deanna Witzel said the city should also consider ordinances strictly regulating a dispensary and use of recreational marijuana and consider creating a coalition of local experts who can be proactive about how the community can deal with this issue and any problems that result.

At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said the vote to approve a casino operating partner is being delayed to the Oct. 1 meeting, because the steering committee evaluating the casino proposals is “still awaiting a few final financial documents as well as negotiating community benefits with both applicants.”

Although the committee received three proposals, Williams has said two are strong proposals.

The city must have an agreement with a developer and casino operator and all zoning approvals in place in time for the operator to submit its application for the state casino license to the Illinois Gaming Board by Oct. 28.

Aldermen also voted to create 30 video gaming licenses at a cost of $600 a year, which includes the existing 24 establishments with video gaming plus six new ones. Williams said three businesses already have applications pending.

News-Gazette