BATAVIA – With early voting well underway, Batavians are being confronted with the question of whether they wish to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries to be permitted in the city.
The advisory referendum resulted from last winter’s debate by the Batavia City Council over the city’s pot policy, which already permits medical marijuana dispensaries although none currently exist.
The question on the Nov. 3 ballot reads: “Shall the city of Batavia allow the sale of recreational adult-use cannabis with its jurisdiction, subject to statutorily permissible restrictions?”
City Administrator Laura Newman said that although the referendum is not legally binding, the city intends to abide by the results.
What that means is that if city residents vote against the proposition, any proposal for a recreational marijuana dispensary would be a non-starter.
However, approval of the advisory referendum would not be a guarantee that a retail pot shop would set up business in Batavia.
Market forces and the state’s licensing process are the keys to determining where a dispensary may be located.
Near to Batavia, there are already recreational dispensaries established in St. Charles, North Aurora and Aurora.
Approval of the referendum would mean that city officials would consider themselves obliged to consider a legitimate proposal for a recreational dispensary.
Newman noted that the city has already established a comprehensive zoning code for marijuana businesses, including dispensaries, transporters and cultivation centers.
The city has an ordinance in place allowing for marijuana growing facilities in industrial areas, according to Batavia Community Development Director Scott Buening.
Medical cannabis dispensaries may be issued by the city council in some industrial and commercial zones, Buening said.
Mayor Jeff Schielke is strongly opposed to the sale of recreational marijuana in Batavia and previously went so far as to threaten a veto of any ordinance allowing pot sales in the city.
Now, Schielke has softened his tone, saying he wants to hear from the voters.
“It’s a true public question and it’s going to get an answer,” Schielke said.
If voters approve the referendum, Schielke indicated he would be open to signing a marijuana dispensary permit authorized by the council.
“That’s the deal I made with the aldermen,” Schielke said. “That’s the commitment I made.”