Savoy board pot vote

The Savoy Village Board votes on whether to allow the sale of recreational marijuana within the village limits at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

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SAVOY — Less than a month before recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois, Savoy has decided to ban sales of it within the village limits.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the village board voted 5-0 to prohibit sales. Trustee Bill Vavrik was absent.

The board had voted in October to impose a 3 percent sales tax on marijuana sales in case a dispensary ever opened in Savoy, but as it didn’t expect any interest in one, it held off on voting to ban sales.

But last month, someone contacted the village about opening a dispensary, so the board took up the issue again.

“A couple of weeks ago, (I) received a call from an interested party that owns property in the village that is working with a dispensary operation,” Village Manager Dick Helton said before the vote. That person was also looking at properties in Champaign and Urbana, “so it’s not just Savoy they’re looking at, but Savoy is a real possibility.”

Savoy is no longer a real possibility after Wednesday’s vote.

Board members continued to express concerns with recreational marijuana, from banking regulations to impaired driving.

Trustee A.J. Ruggieri said his no vote came down to “what the citizens of Savoy want.”

“Through the correspondence that I’ve had as this process has been developing, there have been people who are supportive and there is a side of it where we’d be getting more revenue that could help,” Ruggieri said. “But the majority of everyone that I’ve talked to has basically said that we don’t want to present ourselves as that type of community.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, resident Mike Hutjens asked how much revenue Savoy could generate from marijuana sales.

“That’s a very important decision for the board to generate more potential revenue because it’s going to be here,” Hutjens said.

Both Champaign and Urbana will tax marijuana sales at 3 percent once they’re legal Jan. 1, and each already has a medical-marijuana dispensary.

Regardless of how much revenue would be generated, Trustee Jan Carter Niccum said he’s spoken with residents who were morally opposed to marijuana, and as a former driver’s ed teacher, he was concerned about impaired driving.

“A big fear of mine is that if we pass it, that we’re kind of being another group that condones this practice,” Niccum said. “So that’s my own personal belief on the issue.”