By Steve Robinson | February 18, 2019 - 10:58 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – For 23 years, the Twin Cities’ Not In Our Town Committee has been tasked with seeing to it the Town of Normal and City of Bloomington demonstrated to residents and visitors alike that they were inclusive communities. But also in those 23 years, NIOT had never produced written updates to the Town on progress made concerning those efforts.

That changed Monday, as NIOT Committee Member Mike Matejka gave a brief presentation at Monday’s regularly-scheduled Normal Town Council meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station.

In addition to giving some historical background to the work NIOT had done over the past 23 years, Matejka pointed out special events NIOT had hosted in an effort to make young people more aware of opportunities for them. Among those was a “Listening Session” held at Miller Park in Bloomington last summer. Among the goals for that event, Matejka said, “Was to make young people feel part of the community, particularly those of lower income.”

He said NIOT works to make sure students who feel alienated in some way are made to feel welcome within the community. He credited local school administrators with supporting the group’s effort in that area.

Design Waivers For Trail East Building Approved: Before adjourning to executive session, Council members unanimously approved a resolution granting waivers from the Town’s Uptown Design Review Code and supplemental Roundabout guidelines to approve a preliminary plan for the proposed Trail East building, to be located at the eastern edge of the Roundabout.

Representatives for the project’s developer, Iowa-based Bush Construction, introduced their concept for the proposed five-story building at the Council’s Jan. 7 meeting. Among the highlights of the proposed new building are an arcade design, storefront transparency, and several public entrances off of College Ave., Constitution Blvd., and Beaufort St.

A public hearing on the proposed building was held by the Uptown Design Review Commission on Feb. 11, but no residents addressed the Commission. At that hearing, Commission members voted 4-0 in support of the project as proposed with the waivers required for arcade design, storefront transparency, design for a tower which will be part of the structure, and floor heights.

Commissioners approved the project, also, on the condition the developer submit a signage package, landscaping plan, and an exterior lighting plan which the Commission would review in the future.

Mayor Chris Koos did have one suggestion for representatives of the developer who attended the meeting. He said he noted the building has an all-brick look to it along College Ave. He asked the developer’s representatives to consider finding a way to break up that look.

Rivian’s Progress Noted: A Chicago Tribune article published Sunday addressed the Town’s continued hopes for the success of Rivian Automotive, an electric car manufacturer which bought and took over use of the former Mitsubishi Motors of America plant on Normal’s west side. The plant is being used now, with roughly 70 employees currently, and once production of electric cars gets into high gear, it’s anticipated there will be 1,000 employees at the site.

The Tribune article pointed out that a $700 million investment spearheaded by Amazon, announced on Friday, had managed to raise about $1.4 billion for Rivian which would allow the auto manufacturer to begin production next year.

“This year, as they start to develop the assembly line, that will ramp up manufacturing pretty significantly,” Koos said after the Council session. “When they are ready to produce, I think they said they would be at 500 jobs.” He added it was his understanding from what Rivian officials have told him that as production increases, the numbers of staff needed will increase.

When the company negotiated with the Town, Rivian officials estimated rolling out the first vehicles off the assembly line sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. But the company has had to push that deadline back slightly, to sometime in the first quarter of 2020.

By a unanimous vote last February, Council members approved an ordinance abating the 2017 property tax levy for Rivian. Doing so was in accordance with the 2016 economic incentive agreement the Town signed with the auto manufacturer. To receive the abatement, Rivian successfully completed a couple of stipulations sought by the Town: To complete its purchase of the former MMNA facility; and invest at least $500,000 in project expenses, but did not include the cost of the former MMNA property. At the time of that agreement, the Town estimated the abated property tax for the Rivian land was equal to $74,900 for the Town and $32,300 for the Normal Public Library.

Concerning the three-month delay, Koos said, “In terms of meeting their obligations for sales tax rebates, they’ve done that handily and continue to do so. That won’t be an issue.”

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting held Feb. 4, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Feb. 13, 2019.

• A resolution authorizing an agreement for construction materials testing services for the 2019 construction season with Bloomington-based Ramsey Geotechnical Engineering LLC (RGE).

• A resolution to appropriate $526,648 of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds for the resurfacing of various streets for the 2018 MFT Street Resurfacing Project.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat of Lot 1 of resubdivision of Lot 2 in the first addition of North-Land Commercial Subdivision and Lot 7 in the fifth addition to North-Land Commercial Subdivision by expedited process (Menards, 900 Greenbriar Drive).

• An ordinance renaming Duff Street to Julia Duff Street.

• A resolution considering the release of executive session minutes from June 19, 2017 and October 1, 2018.

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