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Normal OKs plan to build out, rename, section off Wintergreen subdivision

Wintergreen subdivision resident Dane Simpson, left, addresses the Normal Town Council on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in the council chambers in Uptown Station.
Michele Steinbacher
Wintergreen subdivision resident Dane Simpson, left, addresses the Normal Town Council on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in the council chambers in Uptown Station.

The Normal Town Council on Tuesday OK’d a slightly revised proposal to develop a north Normal subdivision.

The council voted 5-1 to adopt the preliminary plan for Wintergreen’s third addition, and to rename that section Weldon Reserve. The council also rezoned a four-acre stretch where the area faces Interstate 55, for the construction of 28 duplexes.

Champaign-based developer Fairlawn Capital also plans 82 single-family lots in the 26-acre addition north of Beech Street.

"This area of the community is considered a high priority for development because it is infill. It is adjacent to infrastructure that was designed and built to support this exact kind of development," said Normal Town Planner Mercy Davison.

"It also helps meet a community-wide need for housing," she added. A study published this spring shows a shortage of more than 4,000 homes in the Twin Cities.

Also at the meeting, the council adopted an updated version of a disaster preparedness plan for McLean County, and authorized Norfolk Southern Railway to review designs for pedestrian access to a West College Avenue railroad crossing near White Oak Road.

The council meeting was Tuesday evening because of the Labor Day holiday.

Some neighbors still not sold on Weldon Reserve

In a pair of 5-1 votes to approve Fairlawn's preliminary plan, and to rezone Weldon Reserve's northern strip for duplexes, council member Stan Nord was the only "no" vote.

Mayor Chris Koos was absent, and council member Kevin McCarthy served as mayor pro tem.

The council spent nearly two hours of its three-hour meeting Tuesday focused on the development.

Michele Steinbacher
Looking northeast from Beech Street in Normal, the Weldon Reserve area can be seen. On Tuesday, the Normal Town Council approved Fairlawn Capital's proposal to develop the 26 acres, tucked into Wintergreen subdivision.

A Wintergreen crowd of discontent filled the council chamber, as a larger group did Aug. 4, when the development’s addition was proposed at a Normal Planning Commission meeting.

On Tuesday, six residents addressed the council, including Wintergreen II Home Association president Carrie Hoffman, who called the developer’s lack of communication and transparency deceitful.

Hoffman and a few others name checked Fairlawn partner Jason Barickman, who also is a Republican state senator from Bloomington. He sat in the audience, but didn't speak at the meeting.

Hoffman said Barickman was making a mockery of Normal, while fellow Wintergreen resident Angie Lawless said Barickman wielded his political influence to get a “back door” deal.

Neighborhood resident Ashley Mclintock said the town hadn’t done its due diligence with the project, calling for a traffic study, a storm water study, and a look at whether Unit 5's nearby Prairieland Elementary School could absorb new residents there.

However, Normal inspections director Greg Troemel said Wintergreen's original preliminary plan in 2001 had a similar number of housing units planned. So, the kind of population and traffic the Weldon Reserve addition will create already has been closely examined, he said.

One traffic concern raised repeatedly Tuesday was about plans to extend Bristlecone Drive west across the top of Weldon Reserve, bridging all three Wintergreen areas.

Nord, who said he's a Wintergreen resident, said that would make Bristlecone a "thoroughfare" and be dangerous for children in the area.

Some opponents of the Weldon Reserve project also have said they fear Wintergreen home values — often around $500,000 — will drop if duplexes are constructed, and that Fairlawn will rent the homes its builds.

Some opponents have called for stopping Fairlawn from renting properties. However, Davison said Normal doesn't decide whether anyone in town rents out their properties.

Council member Chemberly Harris said she found some Wintergreen residents' arguments — against duplexes, and possible rentals in their neighborhood — off-putting.

"(It) comes across as very NIMBY (not in my back yard)," she said.

Harris noted price points for the duplexes are expected to be above $300,000, so they wouldn't be creating a low-income pocket in the wealthy enclave.

Town adopts updated plan for disaster planning

Also Tuesday, the council adopted an updated version of McLean County’s disaster preparedness plan, formally known as the McLean County Multi-Jurisdictional All Hazards Mitigation Plan.

The federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 laid the groundwork for such pre-disaster planning at the state and local levels. The plan’s intended to reduce chaos in the event of disasters.

McLean County’s plan is updated every five years.

Normal is one of two dozen jurisdictions covered by the plan, including a variety of communities, fire districts, Normal-based Unit 5 school district, Heartland Community College campus, and Carle BroMenn Medical Center.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a three-year contract with California-based All City Management Services that manages school crossing guard staffing in Normal. The contract is about $91,000 this year; $97,000 in 2023-2024; and about $103,000 for the third year. Normal crossing guards will earn $25 per hour this year, and $28.60 per hour by the third year.
  • Authorized Norfolk Southern Railway Company to review engineering and design for the pedestrian navigation of a West College Avenue railroad crossing. It’s part of the upcoming $1.1 million overhaul of the street between Rivian Motorway and White Oak Road. The Norfolk review is expected to cost about $45,000. 
  • Approved two intergovernmental agreements with Illinois State University. One relates to fire protection service; the other is for landscape waste disposal. 
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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