By Steve Robinson | November 5, 2018 - 10:53 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Residents concerned about the prospect of having a new fire station in their neighborhood brought their concerns to Normal Town Council members at the governing body’s regular meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station Monday night.

Council members unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing City Manager Pamela Reece to negotiate and execute a contract for the purchase of property at 1438 Hershey Rd. Putting the new fire station in the Hershey Road location, according to a memo prepared for Council members by Town Corporation Counsel Brian Day, would “improve service east of Veterans Parkway and would replace the current fire station on College Ave.”

Undeveloped property in the Blackstone Trails Subdivision was considered an appropriate site for the new fire station. The land is situated on the northeast corner of Hershey and Shepard Avenues.

The vote taken Monday was merely to get approval for the project to get underway. But the idea of a fire station being situated in their neighborhood brought out residents from that subdivision with concerns, among them that the station was a done deal with the ordinance discussed at the meeting.

What Council members, including R. C. McBride explained to the residents, numbering 20-25 who sat in the Chambers, was the vote was merely to get the process started. He and Reece explained to the residents that Normal Planning Commission members must examine the plan and approve it, after which, the final plan would return to Council members for a final vote. If the Planning Commission approves the plan, it would go back to the Town Council for approval.

When Council gets it back for a vote, one thing they will have to do is vote to rezone the land the fire station will sit on. That area is zoned for R-2 Mixed Residences and R-1B Single Family Residences. A fire station would need to be zoned S-1 Public Lands and Institutions.

Normal Planning Commission could get the proposed fire station land item on their agenda as early as their December meeting. Among five residents who asked to address the Council, was Don Byrd. He wanted to know from Council members if other properties were considered.

Another speaker was Pat Dullard, a member of Friends of Constitution Trail, reminded Council members there needed to be access to the Trail from the subdivision. Resident Don Byrd asked the Council if other properties were considered.

Resident Michael Pauken told Council members, “This was thrown at us at the last minute. We would have liked to have more time to meet with the Town.” He said he believes the subdivision’s residents “should get compensation for decreased property values.”

Reece informed the gathering a location analysis was done by the Town using Geographic Information System, or GIS, and that response time to emergency calls was among the reasons for the site being chosen. She added Normal Fire Department ran distance tests to help determine where the new fire station should be located.

NFD Chief Mick Humer told Council members using Veterans Parkway to get to calls from the station’s current location “has caused slowdowns trying to get to call scenes.” He cited taking 9 minutes to get to Normal Community High School. He explained that under fire prevention standards, that’s too much time.

Humer added the new station, which would replace one currently located at the corner of College Ave. and Blair Dr., would sit off of Shepard, with the building’s living quarters facing Shepard Rd. on the east, and the fire apparatus on the west side of the building toward Hershey Rd. He said the Town would plant trees near the station to reduce noise levels. He explained it would be manned by three firefighters and three Emergency Medical Technicians.

Rooming House Gets Special Use Permit: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance granting a special use permit for a rooming house to the owner of 904 W. Hovey Ave. The building has been operating under such a permit since 1981 when Council members approved such a permit for Sigma Nu fraternity.

The building’s new owner plans on renovating the front of the building, including a two-story wrap-around addition with an enclosed stair tower. There would be 22 parking spaces, including one that is ADA-compliant. Town Code requires such rooming houses have a parking space per 2 roomers plus an additional two spaces. Fifty residents would require 27 spaces. As a result, the owner is asking for a variance.

Ordinance Approving Prep Of 2018 Property Tax Levy OK’d: Council members unanimously approved a motion authorizing for the preparation of the 2018 Property Tax Levy. The proposed tax levy will result in property tax revenue totaling $12,958,494 for the Town in fiscal year 2019-20. The Town’s Property Tax rate, including Normal Public Library, is expected to decrease by 1.53 cents, from $1.4910 to $1.4757, or a drop of 1.03 percent. That decrease would translate into a homeowner of a $150,000 residence seeing their tax bill go down by $7.50.

Board And Commissions Update: Appointments to one Board and two commissions were announced by Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen. Patrick Bane was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Children’s Discovery Museum Board. A resident of Arrowsmith, Bane, a third generation farmer and member of Illinois Farm Bureau, has been active with the Museum at the McLean County Fair. He is filling a vacant seat with an initial term that expires June 30.

Jennifer Swartout, dean of humanities at Illinois Central College, has resided in Normal since 2013 and will fill the vacancy on the Normal Planning Commission as a result of Michael McFarlane’s moving from Normal.

Carl Teichman, named Normal’s Citizen of the Year in 2017, has been reappointed to the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. His new term expires Dec. 31, 2021.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Oct. 15, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Nov. 1, 2018.

• A resolution requesting permission to close a portion of U. S. Highway 51 for the annual Jaycees Christmas Parade.

• A resolution of financial commitment and acknowledgement of the Town’s support for a Safe Routes To School Grant Application for improvements to Chiddix Junior High School at 300 S. Walnut.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and authorize a contract with Normal-based SCADAware, Inc. to install upgrades at the Northbridge Sanitary Sewer Pump Station in the amount of $28,269.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and authorize a contract with Hoerr Construction, Inc. for sanitary sewer repairs on Poplar St. in the amount not to exceed $162,000 and approving an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving a final plat within one and one-half miles of corporate limits by expedited process – Schaab Subdivision (northwest corner of Linden St. and Kerrick).

• A resolution conditionally approving an amended final development plan – Phase 2 of the J&M Planned Unit Development (Cottage Ave.).

• A motion to release school land dedication fees to McLean County Unit 5 School District.

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