Saturday, April 18, 2009

TON Planning Department

As stated in the annual report, the main responsibility of the Normal Planning Department is to coordinate “orderly growth and development” through the “enforcement of the zoning and subdivision codes.” In 2008, some of the major land use actions included an annexation of land, adding sites for businesses, construction of a new Masonic Lodge, and approvals for new apartment buildings. Plans for additions to the local community college and one of the grade schools were also approved. And three churches gained approval for expansions.

There were two significant zoning changes in 2008: one was to allow for smaller parking spaces and 100% “stacked” parking at apartments in the area immediately surrounding the university (to maximize parking); and the other was a change in zoning from residential to business to allow for the building of a Walgreen’s next to a residential area. These were difficult decisions and required lengthy discussions of the advantages and disadvantages by the Town Council. Time will tell if they were the right decisions.

The Planning Department has also been involved with the Main Street Redevelopment Plan, which will (hopefully) result in a more attractive, functional, environmentally responsible, and pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly Main Street all the way through Normal and Bloomington. (An ambitious plan that seems to be either loved or hated.) And the department implemented two TIF districts for projects that have now been placed on hold due to economic circumstances.

Finally, there is more “green” in Normal than just the town logo: Normal purchased a house next to one of the parks and is planning to use it as an example of environmentally friendly building, as well as a new location for the Ecology Action Center. The Planning Department also prepared a request to have some of the Uptown area certified as LEED-ND (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Neighborhood Development). And the department has been working with the town’s Green Team and other local organizations in sponsoring “green” events. Maybe it should be subtitled the Greening Department?

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