By Steve Robinson | January 22, 2019 - 10:31 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – Although neighbors raised objections to the notion of having a fire station close to their residences, Normal Town Council members voted 4-2 to approve an ordinance approving a concept plan for the Blackstone Trails subdivision. The majority of the properties in the subdivision are zoned Single Family Residential with a strip of the property zoned Mixed Residential.

With Mayor Chris Koos absent from Monday’s meeting, Council Member Kathleen Lorenz and Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen cast the opposing votes to the measure. Lorenz had even floated voting on an amendment tabling the proposed ordinance until further research could be done by Town Staff. That suggested amendment was defeated by a 4-2 tally, with Lorenz and Fritzen voting in favor and Council Members Scott Preston, R. C. McBride, Chemberly Cummings, and Kevin McCarthy voting against it.

Roughly 30 of the residents who live near the proposed subdivision came to the meeting with a few speaking in public comments to Council members, primarily about their objections to a proposed new Normal Fire Department station which would be built, if approved, in the southwest corner of the subdivision.

Former Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli was one speaking against the current proposed location of the new fire station. He said the Town should look at relocating the station to another corner within the area.

“We already pay higher taxes,” complained a neighbor to the Blackstone Trail subdivision, Debbie Schroeder. She complained the Town’s process for rolling out what was planned for the subdivision “wasn’t transparent.” She closed her comments by saying, “Obviously, your moral compass is broken. Residents of the subdivision will not go away today, tomorrow, or at the ballot box.”

The subdivision is comprised of 352 lots, 120 of them large sized, Town Planner Mercy Davison told Council members. The corner planned for the fire station would need to be rezoned for public institutions, she explained. Davison explained, and Fire Chief Mick Humer clarified, the neighborhood had had no prior complaints when NFD equipment had need to come through or near that subdivision.

Property values decreasing was a concern of residents, Council Member McCarthy mentioned, but he was quick to counter what he had heard by saying, “People have shared an area by living next to a Normal Fire station and it hasn’t affected their property values.”

Preston asked City Manager Pam Reece about the selection process used by the Town to determine future fire station sites. Reece said NFD frequently double-checks distances to determine the correct location for any future fire station. She added the department has a record of getting to the scene of a fire call within 5 ½ to 6 minutes 90 percent of the time. She added, based on runs made by NFD, the corner in question was “the best location available.”

Addressing the concerns residents put forth, Cummings told the gathering, “We are listening and we hear you, and this won’t be taken lightly. There are those who know this service is needed and there are those who know there’s a concern for property values.”

In response to a question from McBride, Reece said the earliest a fire station would be functioning at the proposed location could be sometime in 2022. It was after that question that Lorenz asked to have an amendment to consider tabling voting on the ordinance. The two votes, surrounding the amendment and the initial ordinance itself, followed.

The vote to rezone the land on the corner of Hershey Rd. and Shepard Rd. where the proposed fire station would be located, in the northeast corner of the subdivision, came next passing unanimously without discussion.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Council members used an omnibus vote to approve the following agenda items:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Jan. 7, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Jan. 16, 2019.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a lease agreement with the Illinois House of Representatives, by its agent, Illinois State Representative 105th District, Dan Brady and with U. S. House of Representatives by its agent, U. S. Rep. Rodney Davis.

• A resolution to authorize the city manager to negotiate and execute a license agreement with Greyhound Lines, Inc. for access to Uptown Station as a transportation provider.

• A resolution accepting a proposal from Monee, Ill.-based Cardno, Inc. for repair and restoration of the Park West detention basin in the amount of $122,400.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of the Credit Union Subdivision by expedited process (ISU Credit Union, 1309 S. Center St.).

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of the Bryan Drive subdivision by expedited process and waiving development fees (Habitat For Humanity).

• A resolution authorizing the execution of a contract to approve a three-year towing contract with Joe’s Towing and Recovery.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing an agreement with Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Arbor Professional Solutions Collections Services for ambulance service collections.

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