Urbana City Council to discuss passing a new development plan

By Nate Sandstrom

The Urbana City Council is scheduled to discuss the final approval of the city’s Comprehensive Plan on Monday. The plan sets goals and strategies for development in and around Urbana and serves as a guideline for making decisions regarding new construction.

The new plan would replace Urbana’s current Comprehensive Plan, which was completed in 1982, and a 1993 plan that addressed the 1.5-mile radius surrounding the city. Libby Tyler, Urbana’s community development director, said those plans were outdated.

The new plan features maps and aerial photos that identify future planning needs and land uses such as designating residential or business areas. The plan also contains models of how homes and businesses should appear in different area designations.

The plan sets a goal of “infill development” to encourage growth in existing areas such as downtown Urbana, Philo Road, Lincoln Avenue and the area near the intersection of Cunningham and University Avenues. The plan also encourages commercial growth close to residential areas to reduce people’s reliance on cars.

Work on the plan began in 2001. City development staff, the Urbana plan commission, and a steering committee that included representatives of institutions such as the University and Carle Foundation Hospital and community members such as landlords and developers, worked together to identify issues affecting Urbana and address those issues with the plan.

Tyler said the plan was worth the wait. City planners met with neighborhood associations, conducted meetings with focus groups and held open houses to draft a plan that reflected the desires of residents, she said.

“I think we really flushed out the areas of controversy,” Tyler said.

One of the areas that has caused controversy is the plan’s proposal to continue studying the addition of an interchange off Interstate 74 northeast of Urbana, possibly at High Cross Road, Cottonwood Road or County Road 1800E.

Residents who live near the discussed interchange sites have gathered a petition with 302 signatures in which they object to new roads being built, said George Boyd, who lives close to where a High Cross Road interchange would be constructed. Boyd argued a new interchange would cause traffic and safety problems in the rural neighborhood and lead to development on the outskirts of the city rather than downtown.

Tyler said the plan has designated the area to remain “rural residential” and looks to preserve the characteristics of the neighborhood. An interchange off of Interstate 74 would

provide needed access to businesses south of the residential area, she said, such as a Wal-Mart that is set to be built on the corner of High Cross Road and U.S. 150.

Another area designated for future study is the area between Lincoln and Busey Avenues. The area, which is bordered by Illinois and Ohio Streets on the north and south, had been designated for residential use in the city’s 1990 Downtown-to-Campus Plan. Alderwoman Esther Patt said that some residents who live in the area are concerned that single family homes on Busey Avenue will be converted to apartments.

“It makes people nervous. Why are we studying it?” Patt asked.

A draft of the comprehensive plan is available on Urbana’s Web site at http://www.city.urbana.il.us/urbana. The Urbana City Council meets on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at 400 S. Vine St.