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Preston's Swing Votes Give OK to Blackstone Trails Plan

An intended stand on principle switched to a measure of practicality for Scott Preston during Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting, allowing plans for the Blackstone Trails subdivision to move forward.

Preston cast the swing votes that enabled an amended subdivision plan and a final plat of the development’s second addition to pass. The council also approved a property rezoning ordinance for the development.

Area residents have raised concerns about Normal’s desire to build a fire station on a town-owned lot on the border of the neighborhood. During Monday’s discussion, Preston said he intended to stand “upon the principle with a lot of the sentiment in the neighborhood.”

But once he realized Karyn Smith and Stan Nord would vote against the measures and a third no vote would defeat the motions with Chemberly Cummings absent, Preston switched course so the town would not open itself to legal action from the developer.

“I was not willing to sacrifice that, but my point and my passion for continuing to stand up for the residents of Blackstone Trails will always be a priority,” Preston said after the meeting.

In January, the council approved a zoning map amendment and a concept plan for the subdivision northeast of the intersection of Hershey Road and Shepard Road. According to an amended annexation agreement passed in April, the town was obligated to approve the amended subdivision plan because it remains substantially similar to the concept plan.

“Did the developer meet the requirement that his plan that was submitted to us now is substantially similar to the one he proposed to us earlier this year? If so, we are obligated by the contract that the council previously approved to approve it tonight,” said Preston. “The answer to that was yes."

Preston was not the only council member casting a reluctant vote of approval. Saying she was mad at herself and that she “let those neighbors down,” Kathleen Lorenz felt obligated to vote yes.

“I didn’t like this the first time and I voted against it in January (because) I felt the process wasn’t complete as it could have been,” said Lorenz. “While in principle I’m not real thrilled about the outcome of a fire station there someday, I do believe we have to follow the orderly nature of our town to properly document these changes.”

When Nord suggested Normal might consider putting the fire station elsewhere, Mayor Chris Koos responded that the town purchased its lot with the intention of building the fire station. But the mayor stressed Monday’s agenda items were only related to the subdivision.

“Those conversations need to be strictly separated,” said Koos. “We’re not here talking about a fire station; we’ll have an opportunity to talk about that when a site plan comes.”

After Smith voted in favor of the rezoning ordinance, Preston reverted to his original plan of voting no on principle with the knowledge it would still pass.

Other Business

In other action, the council voted unanimously to authorize a $2 million loan agreement with Commerce Bank to pay off the callable remaining principal on the town's fixed-rate bond issue from 2009. The refinancing is expected to generate potential savings of more than $118,000 over the life of the bond issue.

Other items approved by the council included:

  • Purchasing $89,000 worth of computer equipment from Dell
  • a $75,000 contract with Freehill Asphalt for concrete pavement crack and joint sealing
  • a $70,000 agreement with Tyler Technologies for development and implementation of an electronic citation program
  • Ordinance allowing parking on the north side of Beech Street between Chuck Murray Drive and Towanda Ave.

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Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.