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SAVOY — If a village holds a listening session and no one shows up, do its residents care?

That’s what members of the Savoy planning commission confronted after none of its 8,607 residents shared their thoughts about how the village should handle legalized marijuana.

“I see some board members and some staff members, and I see one guest. Do we have anyone interested in speaking to this group?” Chairman Bill McNamara asked.

After a nine-second pause, he concluded, “OK, no one is interested in speaking to the group. It’s going to be a short meeting.”

This was just the first of several meetings that Savoy will have on the topic.

The board of trustees will meet Sept. 11 to hear from the public again, the planning commission will meet again to make a recommendation to the board, and the board will eventually meet again to take a vote.

“Don’t let tonight sway you,” Village Manager Dick Helton said. “I’m sure there are people out there who have some interest and some input that they want to give to the commission as well as the board of trustees.”

“I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen a few people here tonight,” McNamara said, noting he had been stopped at Schnucks and asked about it.

“I am, too,” Helton said.

The media had been notified about the meeting, Helton said, as had the homeowner associations.

“It’s not because we didn’t publicize it that nobody’s here, it’s because of something else,” Helton said.

After the meeting, he added: “I don’t know that we’re apathetic here, but I think you’ve got enough people here that spend most of their time in Champaign, doing things there, they just don’t consider things here.”

Recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois beginning Jan. 1, so the village wants to have its ordinances in place by then, Helton said.

Towns across the state are deciding whether to allow, ban or limit recreational marijuana businesses, such as craft growers, transporters and dispensaries, and whether to tax their sales by up to 3 percent.

Regardless of what a town decides for businesses, all residents 21 years and older will be able to use marijuana recreationally on their private property.

“It’s here to stay, whether you like it or not,” Helton said. “And the village is in a position where we’re right here with Champaign-Urbana, and the signal coming out of Urbana is that they’re going to pass it and expect to make some pretty significant funding from it, which will help them. I don’t know where Champaign stands.”

His personal view is that “if they pursue it the same way, then there really isn’t much of a reason why Savoy would want to be included in having those facilities in Savoy. People can go to those communities.”

Helton said he figures that since the existing medical-marijuana dispensaries are in Champaign and Urbana, Savoy wouldn’t see much business anyway.

“I don’t see that there’d be a big influx of dispensaries or growing fields or whatever because of that,” he said. “I wouldn’t see a significant opportunity for the village to reap any financial gain from it.”

But he said he’s open to what residents have to say.

“The board, the planning commission, and what we find out in the future may change my mind about that,” he said.


Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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