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PEARL HARBOR REMEMBRANCE was held on the shores of Lake Decatur in front of the Beach House this morning (Dec. 7). The remembrance was hosted by the Macon County Veteran's Assistance Commission and the Macon County Honor Guard. It's been 76 years since the attack by Japanese planes on Pearl Harbor.
(Photo by Patrick McDaniel)
Mac on Sports
Illinois Announces Demirjian Park
Champaign--At a 4 o'clock press conference today (Wednesday) the Demirjian family of Decatur and the Illinois athletic department are announcing their $7 million gift to build new soccer and track and field facilities.
I will have more details on this in a future print edition.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
‘It’s Deja Vu All Over Again’ For Ash Avenue And Business Route 51 Neighborhood
The famous Deja Vu quote of Yankees’ great Yogi Berra has to be running through the minds of several residents of the neighborhood impacted by any commercial development on the southwest corner of Ash Avenue and Business Route 51 on Decatur’s north side.
A couple of years ago, the residents were successful in killing plans for a new Aldi store to be located on that valuable piece of property.
Back then, the city council voted 4-3 against rezoning the property to allow the new Aldi store.
Now, Northbrook-based GMX Real Estate Group wants to develop that same residential corner the neighbors battled to protect two years ago.
A public meeting was held at the Decatur Public Library one evening last week to discuss the issue with residents who live in that neighborhood and a large crowd turned out to make sure their voices were heard.
Residents of the neighborhood made basically the same arguments they made two years ago in objecting to the Aldi’s store. They said increased traffic on an already busy area and lower property values for their homes will happen if the project goes through.
GMX Real Estate Group is seeking to rezone 1.6 acres into a 10,400-square foot shopping center near the high-traffic intersection but had little specifics as to what businesses would occupy the center.
The Zoning Commission is scheduled to meet this week to render its judgment on the rezoning but the final vote will come from city council.
• Why Try Again?
Since the city council rejected rezoning for Aldi’s, why would any developer try to get approval for another project, especially since the reasons residents oppose it are the same as the last time?
The composition of the city council has changed since the Aldi’s vote. Councilmen Jerry Dawson, one of four votes against rezoning, and Chris Funk, who was one of 3 votes for the rezoning, are no longer on the council --so each side of that vote lost a council member, which means the decision could go the other way this time.
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and Councilwoman Dr. Dana Ray voted for the rezoning last time.
Bill Faber, Pat McDaniel, Lisa Gregory were the other three votes (in addition to Dawson) who voted against rezoning for Aldi.
I think Faber and McDaniel will vote against rezoning again this time. I’m not sure where Lisa Gregory is on this one but we’ll soon find out.
That leaves the new councilmen, David Horn and Chuck Kuhle, to be key votes in determining if this development will happen.
There’s no doubt, the new councilmen are facing some strong lobbying from citizens who are opposed to the rezoning that will open up the site for commercial development.
There is no question the neighborhood impacted by what happens on the southwest corner of Business Route 51 and Ash will be subjected to an endless number of battles for development of that site (even if they win this latest battle) -- because it is one of the busiest intersections in Decatur.
I often hear the argument from some readers that they can’t understand why businesses, who want to expand or locate here, don’t move to some of the empty buildings or sites already available.
There is a reason those buildings are empty -- not a good location!
I remember, during the battle over locating Target at Mound Road and Rte 51, one of the suggestions offered by a protestor was to locate the new store on South Jasper Street close to Johns Hill -- which no developer in his right mind would do because there was not the traffic to support it.
(Contrast South Jasper Street with the traffic that flows on Route 51.)
There’s a lot of market analysis that goes into wanting to build on a certain site. Location is key to any commercial development and the site at Business Route 51 and Ash Avenue meets the criteria for a profitable complex.
Otherwise, the company, store or complex will move on and locate where they can make money.
The part of the northside neighborhood that’s located next to Route 51 and Ash Avenue is in the crosshairs of commercial development because that’s where the customers drive by.
As long as that is the case, if the latest attempt to develop that site fails to get city council approval, developers will wait for council members to change -- and try again.
That site is one of the most desired in Decatur for developers and, with the City of Decatur looking for more revenue, added pressure is on the city council to say “yes” to rezoning it.
This will not be an easy vote for the city council because it matches bricks and mortar against human beings (who also vote).
Those opposed to the rezoning will have to work harder to defeat it than they did two years ago -- and they worked very hard then to defeat rezoning for Aldi.
Moody’s Downgrades City Of Decatur’s Credit Rating
Last Friday Moody's Investors Services downgraded the city’s credit rating from A1 to A2 with a "negative outlook" for improvement.
That, coupled with the city council approving a $67.9 million budget, with a $3.2 million deficit, in Monday night’s action, makes this holiday season less than “jolly” when it involves dealing with city finances and planning.
There is some hope the budget deficit will be reduced by some action of the Illinois General Assembly that will give us some of our money back -- but it probably wouldn’t hurt to have the mayor and councilmembers pay a visit to Santa’s House in Central Park and tell the jolly old elf what we need to help us out.
It doesn’t hurt to cover all bases, especially when counting on some state help which has massive financial problems of its own.
The state’s finances are so bad that few people even want to do business with them.
Heavily-Tinted Windows In Vehicles Should Be Banned -- But That’s
An Uphill Battle
As many of you know, I like to take a daily walk in the downtown area. I enjoy seeing a lot of people I know and it’s good for my health -- especially on those extremely stressful days.
I rely on my instincts when I cross the intersection crosswalks where a right or left turn is permitted when the light is red.
I always look at the driver’s face before I cross to see if they have a clue that I’m going to walk across the street before they make a turn.
That’s one of the reasons that heavily-tinted glass in vehicles is dangerous. I can’t tell if the person is talking on his or her cellphone (or if the person driving is a he or she or Martian) or is otherwise distracted.
One day last week I nearly got hit by the person driving the car because they were apparently distracted inside the car and didn’t see me!
On May 14, 2016, City Councilman Pat McDaniel wrote an excellent “Letter to the Editor” on this subject and I couldn’t agree more with the points he made back then.
McDaniel wrote: “Would any of us citizens have the courage to walk up to an unknown vehicle that had very dark tinted windows on all sides if the driver had just sideswiped our car? But we expect our law enforcement officers to do just that routinely, day in and day out, when they have to make general traffic stops or stops for expected criminal behavior.
“In our nation’s present environment, where our law enforcement officers have become targeted, would it not be common sense to ban dark tinted windows on vehicles in Illinois for the safety of our officers and the general public?
“Have any of you ever felt leery walking in a crosswalk when a vehicle with tinted windows approaches, and you could not see if the driver was on a cell phone or texting and might be distracted from stopping? How about when an Amber Alert is sent about a missing child, but citizens would be unable to spot the child in a vehicle that had dark tinted windows; that also goes for not being able to see a child left in a dark tinted vehicle who needed help on a hot day.
“The law that allows light-colored tinted windows was changed by the Illinois General Assembly many years ago, but more and more citizens are abusing the law and have very dark windows.
“Illinois State Sen. Chapin Rose has drafted new legislation that would ban dark tinted vehicle windows, but needs citizens’ help and support to get it passed. Citizens and law enforcement officers should contact Sen. Rose to offer their support and encouragement.”
I called Councilman McDaniel to find out what has happened to the legislation and he indicated not much had happened and he had learned there was a strong lobby against banning heavily-tinted windows.
McDaniel told me that the power of the Chicago legislators was making it difficult in getting something meaningful done about the heavily-tinted windows.
I also talked with Senator Rose who told me the budget problems the past year or two have made it difficult to add more items on the legislative platter but he the legislation will be to introduced in the legislature next year.
Rose said that it is going to be an uphill battle to get it passed but it will be introduced.
Car window tinting laws in Illinois were enacted in 2009 and reading the percentages of “legal window tinting” on each window of different makes of cars and other vehicles could cause your eyes to go into a heavy tint!
I think one thing is for sure (at least in my mind): there are a lot of cars I’ve seen where the tinting is so heavy that it goes far beyond the present legal limit and those people thumb their nose at any hint of breaking the law.
By the way, in my “almost run over” encounter with the heavily-tinted windows car, the driver lowered his window and gave me the finger!
That has to be a real downside of heavily-tinted glass for the seriously-challenged driver who know only one way to express his disgust.
No one sees his “#1” sign unless he lowers one of the windows so we can all see who it is expressing such limited response.
I understand the arguments made for tinted glass regarding medical reasons, and others -- but those pale when compared to the reasons against the heavy tint.
The overriding factor should be the safety of law enforcement officers in approaching a vehicle where the officer cannot see what the car’s occupant, or occupants, are doing before one of the windows is lowered.
They may be pointing a gun (or guns) at the officer’s head and he doesn’t even know it.
I certainly would be very concerned if one of my sons was a police officer and had to approach vehicles with heavy tints, after stopping them -- which means I’m also very concerned about other sons and daughters of other parents who do have their loved ones working as police officers.
This legislative action should be a no-brainer but, unfortunately, on common sense issues like this one, “brains” are usually in short supply.
Despite the efforts of Senator Rose and others, effective heavy tinting legislation, has about as much chance of passing as I do being drafted by the NBA because of my basketball skills!
That’s a shame...a real shame, with future tragedy written all over it.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Central Park Fountain in Downtown Decatur