Peoria City Council Tuesday Night Round-Up

The Peoria City Council met on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018 for a regularly scheduled meeting. Here is a brief round-up of some of the business conducted and issues discussed by council members.

Shuttle Service Ending

The free grocery shuttle service that began when two Kroger stores closed in Peoria will end this Friday. Peoria Councilman Tim Riggenbach said poor ridership is to blame. Dream Center has provided the bus runs from the South Side and East Bluff to other grocery stores since early February.

Will Peoria Raise The Smoking Age?

Retailers may not be able to sell cigarettes to individuals under the age of 21 if the Peoria city council approves a proposed ordinance change.

Currently, the city’s legal age for the purchase of tobacco is 18. The American Heart Association is promoting the Tobacco 21 program to cities across Illinois. Twenty cities have already raised the age for the purchase of tobacco to 21.

The Heart Association’s Carolyn Cerf told council members last night the new age limit actually lowers smoking rates among even younger teens.

“When you restrict access to tobacco for the 18 to 20-year-olds, you’re really affecting teen smoking rates and preventing the whole next generation of smokers in your community.” Cerf said.

But one council member thinks there should be a penalty for possession of tobacco. Councilwoman Beth Akeson wants an ordinance that also restricts possession of tobacco.

“If we don’t want people who are under the age of 21 buying cigarettes, the reason is we don’t want them smoking, that’s the point, right,” Akeson asked during the debate.

“That is logical.” Cerf said.

But Cerf says they “don’t believe it works any better to start kids off in life with potentially a disadvantage and a record and sooner than you know it, a hundred dollar fine or whatnot turns into a $200 fine.”

Cerf says further, smoking costs the Illinois Medicaid program two-billion dollars a year.

Councilman Zach Oyler said he would oppose the proposal. He says the issue is a statewide matter. Meanwhile, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis is talking with area community leaders in hopes of creating a regional effort to raise the age for selling tobacco. This was the council’s first look at the proposed ordinance and will vote on the issue at a later meeting.

The proposed Rivertrail Apartments site along the Illinois River. (File Photo.)

Riverfront Park v Rivertrail Apartments Saga

The city of Peoria has hit another snag in its effort to create housing units in Riverfront Park.

The option to buy the property owned by the Detweiller Trust expired March 16th.

While the council has not designated a funding source, it earlier had directed city manager Patrick Urich to pursue the purchase of the land where the Peoria Boat Club is located.

“I think we have an obligation to the developer to talk about what we can do to purchase that property so we’re continuing to have conversations. Detweiller Trust has left the door open for us to have a conversation with them about that property.” Urich said.

The land purchase is needed to offset the space where the apartments would be. The National Park Service provided some capital for Riverfront Park and requires the land swap.

Westlake Shopping Center Requests Time to Reassess

Store closings are having a negative impact on both developers and the city of Peoria.

The owner of Westlake Shopping Center asked the city council several months ago to add a quarter percent sales tax increase on sales at Westlake stores. It would have been used to improve facades and security at the shopping center.

Last night, Councilman Jim Montelongo asked the council to table the measure. The upcoming closure of Toys R Us has changed the financial dynamic at Westlake.

“Not knowing exactly what the revenues are but, get an estimate of maybe seven, eight million dollars in revenues, which definitely impacts our city with the sales tax, and certainly those jobs are going to be gone and so the petitioner needs some time to come up with a new method for reinvesting into the area there." Motelongo said.

Cohen Development Company operates the shopping center along Sterling Avenue in Peoria.

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