VILLAGE OF NORTH AURORA
VILLAGE BOARD MEETING MINUTES
JANUARY 6, 2020
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Berman called the meeting to order.
SILENT PRAYER – MEDITATION – PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
In attendance: Mayor Dale Berman, Trustee Mark Gaffino, Trustee Mike Lowery, Trustee Laura Curtis, Trustee Mark Carroll, Trustee Mark Guethle, Village Clerk Lori Murray. Not in attendance: Trustee Tao Martinez.
Staff in attendance: Village Administrator Steve Bosco, Finance Director Bill Hannah, Community & Economic Development Director Mike Toth, Public Works Director John Laskowski, Police Chief Dave Fisher, Village Attorney Kevin Drendel.
Jim Jenson, 149 S. Lincolnway, North Aurora – Mr. Jenson stated that he has run a law office in North Aurora at 161 S. Lincolnway since 1989 and then at 149 S. Lincolnway since 2002. Jenson noted that according to the Aurora Beacon news dated 9/23/19, Jeremy Unruh, an official with the company that operates the Verilife dispensary said that the location in North Aurora was not equipped to handle the increase in traffic for recreational sales.
The village passed the special use permit with special conditions. One was that the petitioner shall coordinate parking, traffic control and security solutions subject to the direction of the village police department and in cooperation with surrounding property owners. Jenson said he was not aware of any of the property owners hearing from Verilife on any of these items.
Another condition was that all dumpsters on the subject property shall be enclosed and potholes are to be filled. Jenson said this has not been done. Jenson said he did not understand how a high volume retail business with no turn lanes or traffic control devices or parking got approved. Jenson asked if the village ever spoke with the tenants at 161 S. Lincolnway.
Ruth Stone, 141 S. Lincolnway, North Aurora – Ms. Stone said she runs a law office and has been at her current location since 2006. She is also a 20-year resident of North Aurora. On New Year’s Day she went to her office and there was no place to park. Stone said that when she told people they could not park at her business they would respond that it is public parking. The police said it is private property and there is nothing they can do. Stone said she called a towing company but it took 3 days to get set up.
Jeff Volkman, 161 S. Lincolnway, Suite 206, North Aurora – Mr. Volkman has been at 161 S. Lincolnway since 2008. He stated that the building owner, Peter Lapp, is a poor communicator and it has been a nightmare since Verilife has opened. Volkman said that his secretary won’t go to lunch because she does not want to lose her parking spot. UPS can’t deliver packages and the garbage could not get picked up the other day because of the traffic. People are arriving at 7:00 a.m. for a business that opens at 9:00 a.m. They are parking in spots that do not belong to them. By the time the police get there, it is too late and the lot is full. Volkman said that in December, attempts to speak with Verilife in terms of their plans went unanswered.
Patty & Ed Zacharias, 16 S. Grant Street, North Aurora – Patty Zacharias stated that they are not business owners but residents who wanted to share their concerns. She stated that she was embarrassed when she drove through the area near the Verilife business and that it did not reflect the beauty of the village. Zacharias said she hoped the village can make the current situation better.
Mayor Berman said that the village took a significant amount of time over the last 6 months discussing recreational marijuana sales in the village. Staff reached out to other communities all over the United States who went through the same thing and the village felt confident that we did our homework along the way. Verilife does want to find a new location and staff has been working with them on finding a new property. The feeling of the board is that it is the law and we need to make sure we can control where and when recreational marijuana is being sold. Staff did an outstanding job in communicating and communicated greatly with Verilife.
Trustee Carroll said he was the lone vote against recreational sales of marijuana in the village, but to staff’s credit, they have been working on this since the summer and they posted the village meetings every week on Facebook and on the village website. Carroll said he totally emphasizes with the business owners, but no one ever came to the meetings to object to this for the special use or the zoning. Therefore, it got passed. As far as communication, Carroll said he had to defend village staff and the police department with working with what they had been given. Carroll said he wished that people would have come to the meetings and stated their objections prior to it being passed. It passed because this board did not feel there was an objection to recreational marijuana sales in the Village of North Aurora.
Trustee Curtis said that while having empathy for the business owners, felt that this is new and will trend down.
Trustee Lowery said that the primary reason that motivated the board to go ahead with this was the tremendous benefit in terms of revenue for the village.
Village Administrator Steve Bosco said that prior to Verilife’s opening, the village was working with them to secure parking at additional locations. They looked at two adjacent locations for parking, and didn’t find out until late that those would fall through. Verilife is currently looking at other lots for parking. Bosco said that the village thought Verilife would communicate better with the adjacent businesses and it is disheartening to learn that the property owner did not communicate with the business owners.
Bosco noted that for the special use hearing the village does provide notice to the businesses and homes that are within 250 feet of the location. The village had a total of eight public meetings to discuss recreational marijuana in the community. Five of those were at the Village Board level and three at the Plan Commission level. Five were in the discussion of whether or not to allow it and how to zone it. The other three were specifically about the special use. Bosco said that the police chief has done an amazing job and has had had 3 to 4 officers, each shift, on Route 31 or behind the dispensary. The CERT volunteers have also been on hand to assist with crossing on Route 31 & Airport Road. Bosco said the village does not know what Verilife’s immediate intentions are to move. They did say that due to the time constraints of the state that they would open at the current location and look to move to another site on the west side of town.
Bosco noted that currently this is one of a couple dozen dispensaries that are selling recreational marijuana in all of the Chicagoland area. The closest to North Aurora is Romeoville and Addison. Therefore, North Aurora is being inundated by people from the Tri-City and Naperville areas. Over the last few days, the public parking areas are fuller than on opening day. The village continues to work with Verilife and are aware that there are conditions in their special use that they need to adhere to.
Trustee Gaffino said that when this topic was discussed, the village was under the assumption that Verilife would communicate with the residents and take care of the parking, and it appears that was not done. As far as the village and the staff, staff has been giving a thousand percent. There have been some major improvements since the first day. The Village now needs to make sure that Verilife resolves the issues with garbage, parking and fixing the potholes.
Chief Fisher said that his parking has been filled to capacity. As far as parking on private property, the police cannot enforce that since it is private property. The chief’s recommendation to anyone who has a business that is considered private property, is to get a contract with a village approved tow company. The tow company will hang a sign somewhere where people can see it. After 24 hours of that sign being posted, if someone is on your property who is not using it for your business, you can have the vehicle towed.
Chief Fisher noted that last year he spoke with a police chief in Wareham, MA where Verilife opened up the same business. He said that he was told people would come by the thousands and they did. The business was in a downtown area that didn’t have much parking. He had 7 officers hired on a detail. After the 1st week he decreased the number of officers to two. Chief Fisher said that tells him that the current situation will die down. There will also be more dispensaries in the future. The City of Aurora has five licenses to sell recreational marijuana.
Mayor Berman said there will be further discussions with Veralife and the village will discuss the concerns that were mentioned at this evening’s meeting.
1. Village Board Minutes dated 12/16/2019
2. Interim Bills List Dated 12/19/2019 in the Amount of $170,134.56
3. Bills List dated 1/6/2020 in the Amount of $213,905.13
4. Approval of Resolution Acknowledging Substantial Completion Triggering the One-Year Maintenance Period and Reduction of Letter of Credit for Public Improvements in the Randall Crossing Townhome Development
NEW BUSINESS – None
OLD BUSINESS – None
VILLAGE PRESIDENT – None
COMMITTEE REPORTS – None
TRUSTEES’ COMMENTS – None
ADMINISTRATOR’S REPORT – None
ATTORNEY’S REPORT – None
VILLAGE DEPARTMENT REPORTS
1. Finance – None
2. Community Development – None
3. Police – None
4. Public Works – None
EXECUTIVE SESSION – None
Motion to adjourn made by Trustee Gaffino and seconded by Trustee Guethle. All in favor. Motion approved.
Lori J. Murray