Development won't be delayed

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign City Council voted Tuesday night in study session to bend, in two separate cases, its policy of requiring annexation of property before allowing its development.

One of the properties is a proposed residential subdivision to be developed on the 120-acre Berbaum property by state Sen. Bill Brady at the southwest corner of Curtis and Staley roads. Brady is a Republican candidate for governor and a real estate developer.

The second property is 41 acres on the west side of Staley Road, immediately south of Interstate 72 and north of Springfield Avenue. The Atkins Group owns the northern 21.4 acres and is hoping to land a 350,000-square-foot warehouse distribution facility. David Borchers owns the southern 19 acres and intends to develop a mix of office warehouses and a contractor's shop for himself.

In both cases, the developers want to annex to the city and are close to the city border, but are prevented from annexing because the properties are not contiguous.

For the Atkins Group and Borchers, annexation is not possible because of a strip of unincorporated land running parallel to Springfield Avenue to the south.

In the case of the Berbaum property, a legal conflict between a property owner and a person who once held an option to buy the property has halted city efforts to get contiguous to the site.

The delay has frustrated city officials, because Brady had agreed to pay upfront the $1.2 million cost of having the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District extend sewer service to the western parts of the pending Interstate 57-Curtis Road interchange. Construction of the interchange will begin next year.

City officials expect rapid development near the interchange and want sanitary sewer service to be available immediately.

Brady would be responsible for about one-fourth of the total $1.2 million cost and would be later reimbursed by the city for his upfront loan, with the city eventually being reimbursed by other developers who build in the area.

"Getting sanitary sewer installed ahead of development proposals coming forward is, we think, critical to us," said Rob Kowalski, city assistant planning director.

City Planning Director Bruce Knight said steps are being taken to have a majority of landowners support a court-ordered annexation that could resolve the legal conflict and allow Brady to bring sanitary sewer service to the Curtis Road interchange area. It makes sense to let Brady begin developing his subdivision now so he isn't penalized by the delay, he said.

In January 2004, the city council had approved a policy that annexation should occur before development begins for new development requiring an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan growth area.

But council members voted 8-1 Tuesday in study session to prepare annexation agreements for the properties. Council member Marci Dodds voted "no." The annexation agreements will later be considered by the Champaign Plan Commission and forwarded to the city council for a final vote.

Mark Dixon of the Atkins Group said after the meeting that he could not reveal many details about the proposed warehouse.

"To do the project, we need some state incentives and for the city and county to extend the enterprise zone," he said, adding that other sites are still in competition for the facility.

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