© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

One Normal Plaza Concerns Head to Planning Commission

Normal Town Council meets via Zoom on Monday, Aug. 3.

Normal’s potential rezoning of residential areas near One Normal Plaza won’t be publicly addressed until at least September when residents’ concerns can be made in person, town leaders said during Monday night’s city council meeting.

A query earlier this year about possibly putting a brew pub in the area had some residents concerned — and they’ve been reaching out to council members this summer. 

Council member Karyn Smith took time during the livestreamed meeting, via Zoom, to address the matter and to clarify how the town's planning process works.

She said while the council is in charge of hearing proposals for changing the 30-year land use plan for that area, city staff must first research the topic, and then the planning commission's recommendation is forwarded to the council.

So, Smith said while it's fine to reach out to council members, citizens should address concerns directly to the Normal Planning Commission.

While the commission next meets virtually on Aug. 6, a decision has been made to table the One Normal Plaza issue until its Sept. 10 meeting, when hopefully the group will meet in person. 

"It's important to respect the chain of command," she noted.

The developer who had proposed the pub has since withdrawn his interest, noted Smith. But the very  idea being floated--of a business locating there that would sell liquor-- piqued the interest of many nearby residents. Smith and other council  members said they’d heard from a number of constituents about the issue. 

“This only brought to light a real need to clarify what is the desire for the development of One Normal Plaza,” she said, calling it a very unique area with residences, parks, and businesses and historical buildings. Another big concern is about how much green space will be preserved in the area, she said.

The plan addresses an area of north Normal near the historic site of the former Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School. The land could possibly be divided into four areas, she said. North of Oglesby Street, where the historic dorms have been turned into private residences, the area would remain residential.

But there is consideration that some business could be added to the other three subdivided areas that encompass Baby Fold properties, Normandy Village properties and city-owned park areas, said Smith.

Council member Chemberly Cummings said the One Normal Plaza situation has brought out a problem with how the council was acting like a “house divided.” Without naming anyone, Cummings complained that when Mayor Chris Koos and she were invited to a neighborhood meeting on the topic, and accepted that invitation, another council member decided to attend in defiance.

A trio of council members being present would have violated the Open Meetings Act. So, despite her being a resident of the neighborhood, Cummings excused herself and left. "It was heartbreaking," to leave, but she did so to avoid the conflict, said Cummings.

She cited that moment as indicative of larger problems within what has become an “ineffective city council,” she said, complaining that such politiciking by the third council member wasn’t conducive to productive government leadership and was creating strife and division within the council.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz agreed with the assessment of the council needing greater unity and greater productivity and trust, and less politicking--a topic Lorenz broached at the end of the council’s July 20 meeting.

Also on Monday, the council rejected a bid to bring bike sharing back to Normal. 

The council discussed the single bid it received from South Carolina-based Gotcha Mobility Inc. City Manager Pam Reece said the rejection came because the 3-year, $300,000 contract proved too much of a financial risk for the city.

Gotcha was the only bid received.

Gotcha proposed that sponsorships could offset some of the cost. But after considering the proposal, the council didn't see that worth the risk.

Normal Town Planner Mercy Davison said she thinks revisiting the bid process at a later date is a better plan, as the bike-sharing industry is in a bit of flux right now in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The town’s earlier bike share program was managed by Zagster, in partnership with Illinois State University and Advocate BroMenn (now Carle) Medical Center. Bikes were located at several Twin Cities locations including uptown, campuses and the hospital.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.

Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.