Urbana City Council updates downtown plan, initiates deal with Good Energy

The Urbana City Council passed two major plans at its regular meeting Monday night.

Council members unanimously passed an ordinance amending the 2012 Downtown Urbana Plan, which will update and replace the 2002 plan. The main goals of the updated plan are to strengthen economic activity in downtown Urbana, develop core and outer downtown Urbana, attract more residents and visitors, improve mobility and reduce downtown Urbana’s environmental impact.

The City Council requested an update on the plan in mid-2010.

“There were several opportunities for the public to chime in on the process,” said Jeff Engstrom, Planner II of Community Development Services. “I feel like we were really able to get the public’s input.”

The Downtown Plan Steering Committee held a visioning workshop for the community, which 40 participants attended. An online survey was also released, which generated about 500 responses. Some common ideas that were brought up at the workshop were the need for more festivals, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. However, the majority of community members voted against adding more parking lots.

Charlie Smyth, Ward 1, stressed the importance of expanding bike lanes.

Engstrom reaffirmed that the plan would include more bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks.

Council members made the decision for there to be an annual update and report on the implementation of the plan.

The second resolution was also approved unanimously.

Council members initiated an agreement with Good Energy, which would supply electricity to homes in Urbana with a group plan, as opposed to individual plans for each household.

“This is especially important for University students who will only be here for about four years,” said Dennis Roberts, Ward 5.

Currently, 53 communities in the Ameren Illinois service area are participating in the program. 220,000 residential units and small businesses make up these communities.

The main benefits to using Good Energy are lower energy costs and 100% renewable energy.

A final bid price will be determined around May 1, yet it is predicted that residents will see a 25 to 30 percent savings on their electricity bills if current prices hold.

If Good Energy proposes an unsatisfactory bid, Urbana can back out of the plan at any time with no cost. Also, if the bid is accepted, residents can opt out of the plan during a 30-day opt out clause. After that period, a $25 fee will be charged to residents who back out.

Chief of staff Mike Monson clarified that the fee will not apply to those who move out of town.