Colchester voters petition to allow alcohol sales

COLCHESTER, Ill. (NEWS3) – It could soon be up to voters in Colchester to decide on whether to change the ordinance that prohibits the sale of alcohol in town.

This move comes after a Colchester Finance/Audit/Legislative Committee meeting Tuesday night.

Committee members and aldermen Will Terrill, Ronnie Clark and Eric Haines all agreed to recommend the change of a ‘dry town,’ that’s been in place for decades and last voted on 47 years ago.

Colchester City Attorney Mariah Wallace said a petition will be required before it would be allowed on the ballot. Wallace said at least 25 percent of registered voters, meaning at least 225 people must sign the petition.

Wallace said, if placed on the ballot, the ordinance would read, “Shall the sale at retail of alcoholic liquor continue to be prohibited in the City of Colchester, McDonough County, Illinois?”

If residents vote to allow the sale of alcohol, Wallace said the city council would then discuss drafting various ordinances about issuing alcohol licenses for businesses, hours of operation and other restrictions decided by the council.

Some aldermen have expressed interests in holding town hall meetings to hear from the community.

Residents would vote in the upcoming November general election if there are enough signatures on the petition.

The committee also discussed ordinances to allow cannabis-related businesses and ATV usage.

Wallace said pot lounges, craft growers, cultivation centers and dispensaries would be a cannabis-related business option in Colchester if the city council approves it.

“We want to set ourselves up, so if someone would choose to open a business, we would be able to cover our backside,” Clark said.

“I want to keep it open for us to have that, because it might not happen tomorrow, it might be ten years from now, but at least it’s there for us to be able to do that to generate revenue for our town and citizens,” Haines said.

Terrill asked anyone in the public to comment about the cannabis ordinance, a resident said she was glad the committee feels the sale should be kept open in case anyone is interested in setting up shop. Plus, she mentioned the revenue cannabis could bring into the city.

The town could vote to collect up to a 3 percent sales tax from marijuana sales, but that has not been discussed yet by the committee.

Another major topic discussed, was if the town should allow the usage of utility vehicles, such as an ATV, UTV or golf carts.

Wallace said if the council allows utility vehicles, it will be up to the council to decide to implement a fee, require drivers to obtain a license and set restrictions like driving on certain streets. The council also could vote to set an age limit to operate the vehicles.

The ordinances will be placed on the agenda for discussion by the city council at the Monday, Jan. 27, Colchester Committee of the Whole meeting before a final vote is scheduled on Feb. 3.