By RANDY PIERCE
FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS – There were no opposition votes on a resolution approved by the Fairview Heights City Council at its meeting on Wednesday, giving the go-ahead for the opening of an adult-use cannabis dispensary at 114 Commerce Lane.
Voting favor of the legislation were Aldermen Pat Baeske, Joshua Frawley, Anthony LaFlore, Frank Menn and Ryan Vickers. Alderman Denise Williams was not present.
Aldermen Pat Peck and Brenda Wagner each cast a vote of present which, according to Robert’s Rules of Orders, the compilation of processes and procedures which are used for conducting such meetings, is counted with the majority.
Another alderman, Bill Poletti, repeated his feelings he had stated at the council committee meeting where this resolution was voted on previously before reaching the point of final approval or denial, by saying, “I cannot in good conscience vote favorably for this motion.”
Poletti then announced his vote as “abstain” which had no effect on the final outcome of the legislation. There was little other discussion about the issue with the exception of the clarifications by City Attorney Garrett Hoerner concerning the meaning of the “present” and “abstain” votes that were cast.
At the request of Mayor Mark Kupsky, Hoerner will be doing some research on the difference between an abstain and a present vote then provide the city council with an explanation.
After having been previously approved by an aldermanic committee, what the council acted upon favorably consists of a special use permit and site development plan for the conversion of a vacant retail building into a recreational cannabis sales business.
The approved resolution authorizes a company operating under the name of Ascend to proceed with its plans to occupy the structure which was the former location of a Babies R Us store at 114 Commerce Lane and convert it for use as a recreational marijuana dispensary.
Ascend, operating under the corporate name of Health Central LLC, doing business as Illinois Supply and Provisions,
is the same group which owns similar dispensary facilities in Springfield and Collinsville which both opened on Jan. 1 of this year when state legislation allowing the use of recreational marijuana went into effect.
The special use permit/development plan request was initially brought before the Fairview Heights Planning Commission earlier in October but forwarded from that body to the aldermanic community committee without a recommendation for approval or denial.
Last Wednesday evening’s city council meeting where the Ascend matter was approved was originally scheduled to take place 24 hours earlier but had to be moved forward because of the general election the previous day.
The change in the meeting date was needed, according to Mayor Mark Kupsky, because the council has been convening in the municipal complex recreation room, which has more space to allow for social distancing, since the coronavirus pandemic made getting together in the usual location, than the smaller court room chambers in the city hall where such meetings had been held prior to the pandemic.
During their presentation to the city’s planning commission in mid-October, representatives of Ascend projected a total of $96,000 PER MONTH being generated in terms of city tax revenue from this location.
Katrina McGuire, an attorney from the Thompson Coburn form of St. Louis, stated at the planning commission public hearing that this estimate is based on the volume of sales at Ascend’s other locations from about 6400 customers per week with each average purchase totaling $125.
The projection provided by McGuire additionally mentioned another $96,000 per month in tax revenue for St. Clair County. This would mean $1.15 million for each government entity in a year’s time should these estimates be accurate or possibly more if they fall short.
The city relies heavily on the success of its retail businesses because the municipality collects no real tax from local property owners, therefore depending on sales tax receipts administered through the Illinois Department of Revenue to help fund government operations in the community.
As a result of the obvious impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the money received by the city from its share of retail sales tax has dropped greatly since business closures and restrictions on restaurants and bars were implemented in March.
The coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the nation for nearly eight months now has a more profound impact on Fairview Heights than in other municipalities in the area because Fairview Heights is one of very few cities in the entire state, most of them much smaller such as St. Libory in St. Clair County, that does not collect a property owners’ real estate tax, relying more heavily on retail sales tax revenue for the bulk of its operating expenses.
Sales tax income from purchases of goods and services here that are funneled through the state department of revenue then distributed back to the city largely represents what is used to cover day-to-day expenses for local government operations. In most cases, the City of Fairview Heights receives roughly two cents from every retail dollar spent at local businesses.
This means that when there are fewer people shopping in Fairview Heights, the city’s income level goes down accordingly, so several weeks of severely reduced retail sales will affect how much money is available for the Fairview Heights municipal government to provide services.