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Normal council approves Uptown South master plan, housing development in north Normal

Uptown South
Farr Associates presented its Uptown South master plan to the Normal Town Council in February.

The Normal Town Council adopted a master plan for development for Uptown South on Monday night by a 5-2 vote after much discussion.

The council also approved annexation of land in north Normal along Raab Road, along with plans for an apartment complex there.

Uptown South

Uptown South is a continuing plan for Uptown Normal, an expansion that includes multiple public parks and plazas, as well as space for businesses and housing. It is estimated the project would be completed in stages over about a decade. The master plan, which Farr Associates presented to the council in February, does not commit any funding to the project.

On Monday, council member Scott Preston proposed the council remove language that recommends all-electric development, discouraging reliance on natural gas. This sustainability measure would not require developers to use all-electric, but would promote it as a consideration.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz argued the measure exceeded the scope of the government’s planning duties.

“The plan itself should create a canvas upon which developers will build and develop,” Lorenz said after the meeting. “And I took issue with the fact that the plan goes one step further and specifies how they should build.”

The amendment failed on a 4-3 vote. Lorenz and Preston made up the dissenting side of the 5-2 vote that adopted the plan.

Mayor Chris Koos said he hopes that the all-electric recommendation will be a step toward mitigating environmental damage.

“I’ve come to the opinion we’re going to have to be proactive as a country, as a municipality, in dealing with the issues of climate change,” Koos said in an interview after the vote.

Housing development

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved an annexation and development plan for new housing near the intersection of Linden Street and Raab Road. The Archer apartment complex proposal includes a commitment of $100,000 in town funds to the project. It will expand Raab Road and Constitution Trail to better serve the 136 dwellings it will contain.

The development would include five three-story apartment buildings and a clubhouse. About one-fourth of the units would have two bedrooms and the rest would be three-bedroom units.

Ann Sparks, who lives nearby on Linden Street, was one of two public commenters speaking against the project. She said the development would bring increased pollution, traffic noise, and criminal activity, among other complaints.

“The project may look good to the finance department and Town of Normal, but it obviously won’t improve property values,” Sparks told the council, summarizing her thoughts with “Not in my backyard.”

Two commenters threatened a class action lawsuit if the project moves forward.

Koos declined to speculate on how a court battle might play out, saying it is too early to know if action will be taken at all.

The council unanimously approved the annexation and development agreements. The annexation agreement also rezones the land from agricultural to multi-family residential.

The plan’s estimated completion date was not given, but it requires that trail and road improvements be finished by July 2024.

In other business, the council:

  • Granted $100,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to support sexual assault survivors through the YWCA Stepping Stones program.
  • Approved changes to its governing agreement with Connect Transit. Bloomington-Normal’s bus system would require a two-thirds vote of approval for future route changes and rate changes. The transit agency would also have to hold an annual public hearing to ask for public feedback on its services. The agreement, which also includes the City of Bloomington, would require prior approval from the city or town for any budget changes of more than 10%.
  • Approved a $232,000 no-bid contract with Donelson Construction for work on more than a mile of streets in the Heather Ridge Subdivision. Donelson is using a new street resurfacing technology that combines crack sealing and resurfacing into one process. That’s intended to extend the lifespan of some roads by more than 10 years. 
  • Approved replacing its fleet of 70 electric carts at Ironwood golf course. The $182,000 cost includes a hefty trade-in value on the existing golf carts that have lead acid batteries. The new ones would have lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. The council approved the no-bid proposal from E-Z-Go of Augusta, Georgia. Town staff say E-Z-Go is the only provider offering that product.
  • Approved plans for the final piece of the Sunset Commons subdivision at the corner of Airport and Shepard roads.

Charlie Schlenker contributed to this report.

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Colin Hardman is a correspondent at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.
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