SAVOY – When the Savoy United Methodist Church decided to build a new church in an unincorporated area west of Savoy, Pastor Jim McClarey had to get permits and approvals from three different governments, all of which claimed some jurisdiction over the site.
The church needed to get an annexation agreement from Savoy to get sanitary sewer service because Savoy's comprehensive plan calls for the land to eventually become annexed to Savoy; a building permit from Champaign County because the land is in an unincorporated area; and subdivision approval from the city of Champaign because the city has jurisdiction over land within a mile and a half of its city limits.
"It was kind of confusing," said McClarey. "It would have been easier if we had to work with only one municipality, but we had to maneuver to work with all three of them."
With new homes and businesses sprouting up south and southwest of Champaign, a new Wal-Mart and the Prairie Fields development extending Savoy southward, the Deerpath subdivision moving Tolono northward and a new Interstate 57 interchange proposed at Curtis Road, various governmental bodies have interest in the anticipated suburban sprawl.
New homes and businesses mean more property and additional income for the municipalities and higher census populations to qualify for state and federal per-capita money. But they also mean planning to provide streets, sewers, water, snow plowing and other services.
Seven governing bodies that claim some jurisdiction to the Champaign-Savoy-Tolono area plan to work together within the next 18 months to bring some order to the situation.
The state has awarded the governments a $135,000 Illinois Tomorrow grant to study the area.
The Regional Planning Commission, Champaign County; the villages of Savoy and Tolono, the city of Champaign, Tolono Township and Champaign Township are together contributing another $15,000 toward the project.
The group has hired the Regional Planning Commission to complete a study of future growth for rural and suburban areas south of Champaign, and each governing body will send representatives to a steering committee which will produce a plan.
Commission Planning and Community Development Director Frank DiNovo said the project's goal is threefold:
– The group intends to establish definitive future boundaries for Champaign, Savoy and Tolono.
On May 11, 1992, Savoy and Champaign established common future boundaries as far west as Interstate 57, with a projected east-west boundary running midway between Curtis Road and Old Church Road, DiNovo said. But there is no agreement over which community can claim land west of Interstate 57.
In addition, there are some areas that Savoy claims under the current boundary agreement but is unable to annex because farmland separates those areas from the village limits. State law requires all village boundaries to be contiguous.
Savoy and Tolono have no formal boundary agreements, but it is only a matter of time before the two villages meet. Tolono has annexed land as far north as the Philo Slab (County Road 800N), while Savoy has pre-annexation agreements with land on the north side of the Philo Slab.
"We're hoping to get a boundary agreement on the south with Tolono, and we're trying to expand our agreement with Champaign to the west," said Savoy Village Manager Dick Helton. "We want to set boundaries so there are no misunderstandings. It allows us to not worry over whether Tolono or Champaign is going to take something away from Savoy."
DiNovo said negotiated boundary agreements would prevent the communities from dealing with problems faced in the Chicago suburbs, where developers of unincorporated areas play one city against another to get the best deal, causing ragged boundary lines.
"Municipalities in the Chicago area compete aggressively to annex property in order to get to prime commercial development, and there is cutthroat competition to make the target piece contiguous to the municipality," DiNovo said.
When city boundaries fit together like ragged pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, DiNovo said it is more difficult for cities on both sides of the boundaries to deliver efficient services, such as utilities, street repairs, drainage and snow plowing.
– While Champaign, Savoy and Tolono have comprehensive plans that include ideas for how the rural areas should be used, those plans don't always agree.
DiNovo said the steering committee will look at how the plans overlap and settle any differences among them.
"We want to look at the Route 45 corridor and come up with a development plan that makes sense ecologically and economically," Helton said. "It is important that development happen in an orderly manner so we don't have a hodgepodge of development going on."
DiNovo said the committee intends to produce a plan that would operate as a supplement to the three existing comprehensive plans.
– The committee also intends to plan roads, streets and highways to meet the needs of all the people who are projected to live between Champaign and Tolono.
DiNovo said the group intends to produce a transportation model that would take into consideration projected growth in the three communities, the addition of an Interstate 57 interchange at Curtis Road and the transportation needs of the Willard Airport area.
"Our principal interest is in the Curtis Road corridor," said Champaign City Planning Director Bruce Knight. "We're interested in planning how trips will change when the new interchange comes in and plan for new land use that will accompany that development."
"I think the study will tell us what direction people and businesses are going as they move into the area," said Tolono Village Board member Jim Snodgrass.
When the committee's work has been completed, each of the governments will be asked to approve the plans, DiNovo said.
You can reach Tim Mitchell at (217) 351-5366 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.