Urbana City Council discusses tax rate, neighborhood plan

By Rob Warren

The Urbana City Council met to discuss a neighborhood conservation plan and lowering the property tax rate Monday.

The council’s discussion began with a review of the property tax levy. The property tax rate was lowered from last year’s $1.31, per $100 worth of property, to $1.29. This revision now matches Champaign’s recently lowered property tax rate. The council will, now that the motion has passed, vote on the matter at the next meeting.

Ron Eldridge, city comptroller, also said that right now the levy may seem high, but is currently based on estimates and not hard numbers.

The real number will be available once county assessors have determined Urbana property values.

“It’s an artificially high number, we’ll find out the real number on April 1,” Eldridge said.

The council also discussed a motion for approving the neighborhood conservation district plan. The plan’s goal is to preserve historic landmarks and properties in the city. Some citizens were concerned that the plan goes too far with restrictions on property owners whose districts are slotted for preservation.

“I am concerned because the council has moved away from safety issues and into the restriction of property owner rights,” said Dianna Visek, an Urbana resident. “These are shockingly close to the restrictive covenant of sub-divisions.”

The council addressed some concerns with the motion. Robert Lewis, D-Ward 3, suggested an invitation to the historic preservation society for a joint study session aimed at discussing regulations and improvements to the current council motion.

“I think it’s important to gather input from the public,” Lewis said.

The council also passed a motion to look into various levels of historic preservation with different restrictions on property owners.

“One level could be more historical appreciation,” said Dennis Roberts, D-ward 5. “It would allow change, which is a fact of life, but keep the overall qualities of the property that are historic intact.”