Residents of Bloomington’s oldest neighborhood have taken several steps to embrace its history and diversity in a plan that city officials hope will be a model for other neighborhoods to follow.
The McLean County Regional Planning Commission chose the Dimmitt’s Grove Neighborhood Association for a pilot project to adopt its own neighborhood plan that it could implement in conjunction with the city’s comprehensive plan.
Dimmitt’s Grove encompasses 26 blocks southeast of downtown between Washington Street and Oakland Avenue and between Gridley and Clinton streets.
“Just preserving the fabric of our neighborhood is important to me,” association president Brad Williams said. “The buildings, the streetscapes, the people, all of those things contribute to what our neighborhood is.”
Williams and association member Carlo Robustelli updated the Bloomington City Council during a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday on the group’s progress.
Robustelli said a group of nearly 10 people has been meeting for the last five years to work on the neighborhood plan. He said volunteers surveyed nearly 40 residents of the area to see what’s most important to them about their neighborhood.
The report which the regional planning commission produced in 2016 outlines five major priorities for the neighborhood: preserve its historic integrity, increase home ownership, improve safety and engagement, ensure development is consistent with the neighborhood, and promote the community through education and awareness.
“I really do believe this is just a great model for citizen-driven change,” Robustelli said.
The association raised money to develop a brochure for residents that details much of the neighborhood’s history and provides information about how to access city services.
The group has also paid for plaques for 12 historic homes that chronicle their history and include a QR code for additional information. The group plans to install 12 more next year.
Council member Jamie Mathy said he would like to see similar plans put in place for other older neighborhoods in the city that can be tailored to their unique challenges.
“A lot of our older neighborhoods … maybe didn’t get as much attention as they needed to while the city was rapidly expanding,” Mathy said. “So this brings some of the focus back to some of the challenges that the historic neighborhoods are facing.”
Williams said the neighborhood’s plan urges the city to limit multifamily zoning to ensure that its historic homes are preserved.
The city council will formally consider adopting the Dimmitt’s Grove plan at its Nov. 25 meeting.
City Manager Tim Gleason told the council he will be seeking direction from council members in the coming days to prepare a draft ordinance for cannabis sales for the council to discuss at its meetings on Nov. 25 and Dec. 9.
He said the council would then vote on the plan at its Dec. 16 meeting, ahead of the date in which the recreational use of cannabis becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1.
“I would not imagine this topic is unanimous, but is there majority support that we’ve heard enough and are just waiting for this to be a council item in December?” Gleason asked the board.
Several council members said they were uncomfortable conducting a straw poll during the meeting with council members Kim Bray and Joni Painter absent.
Gleason asked the council for direction on inviting District 87 and Unit 5 officials and other stakeholders to provide input on the cannabis discussion.
Council member Jenn Carrillo replied she believes the public has already been given ample opportunity to raise their concerns.
“I do think we have given folks a lot of opportunity to in the last several months to engage either with the (cannabis) task force or with the planning commission or to come and make comments to this body,” she said. “I would like to see this put on the agenda as soon as possible.”
The city’s planning commission voted last week to recommend allowing cannabis cafes while maintaining zoning guidelines similar to those proposed in Normal.
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