Urbana council denies rezoning request

URBANA — Fearing a move that they think could harm an Urbana neighborhood, city council members voted 6-0 to deny a developer's request to rezone 11 residential properties to allow for more commercial opportunities.

Most of them said it was a difficult case — balancing future development with long-standing homes — but neighborhood residents won out Tuesday.

Developer Howard Wakeland had asked city officials to change 11 properties on the west side of North Lincoln Avenue from single-family residential to a designation called "neighborhood business." The distinction would have given the property owner more flexibility in what may be built on those properties, from single-family or multi-family residence buildings to convenience or other small retail stores.

Wakeland already owns nine of the 11 properties he asked city officials to rezone in the 900 blocks of West Church and Hill streets and the 700 block of North Lincoln Avenue.

But two owner-occupied homes remain, and Viola Bradley-Bias, who owns one of them, said hers is not for sale — despite Wakeland's purchase offers well above the assessed value of her home.

"I still won't sell it to him," Bradley-Bias said. "I don't care what they do, I still won't sell it to him."

Other speakers Tuesday night opposed what they considered the breakup of an established neighborhood, and at least two other neighbors who own property adjacent to Wakeland's have told city officials of their disapproval.

The tract is just north of a block where the city council has already approved designs for a large five-story student housing complex, and it is just to the west of the expanding Carle Foundation Hospital campus.

Bradley-Bias does not plan to leave any time soon.

"I don't want all that (commercial) stuff around me," Bradley-Bias said. "I feel like I should be able to live in peace and quiet."

Alderman Dennis Roberts, D-Ward 5, said the request was reminiscent of the rise of apartment buildings that he thinks has harmed the historic East Urbana neighborhood.

"Mixing the neighborhood usually results in hardship to the families that are still single-family residential," he said.

On the other hand, Wakeland's request is in tune with Urbana's comprehensive plan, a document that guides future development in the city. The plan calls for that block to be the future site of "community business."

Roberts said, however, that the way Wakeland's properties are situated would have made it very difficult to build a business facing North Lincoln Avenue. The two of 11 properties he does not own cut in to the Lincoln Avenue frontage.

"I just don't think this is the right time to approve the zoning change," Roberts said.

Urbana resident and Republican mayoral candidate Rex Bradfield acted as a character witness for Wakeland. He said he has worked with Wakeland for decades, and "his integrity is approached by none, including myself."

"In my 40 years of surveying, I've never surveyed a property that was better taken care of," Bradfield said.

Bradfield said he has found Wakeland properties to always be well maintained and policed.

"I think he has provided the city of Urbana with the type of landlord the city of Urbana would like to have with all their developments," Bradfield said.

Comments

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prp wrote on January 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Let's see..... Wakeland is supporting Prussing's opponent in the mayoral election?  What did he think was going to happen to his request?  The council is just a rubber stamp for Prussing.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on January 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This hippocritical council has voted to protect 700 block north lincoln neighborhood but is determined to destroy the north lincoln/so-called "olympian" farm neighborhood!!  Roundabouts, hotels, rat-infested boneyard sidewalks, borrowpits in fertile farmland---we the voters need to start a referendum to end it all.

ZFox83 wrote on January 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm

More anti-business practices from an administration that has made a long-term habit of implementing policies that turn off business and keep the residential tax base high. 

Folks, if you care at all about the future of this city's economy, I implore you....please take a good strong look at Les Stratton for Mayor and vote in the Democratic primary on Feb 26.  Democrats in Urbana deserve a candidate we can feel strongly about.  Not a bully who has run the city government from a place of intimidation and has the rest of the city council firmly under her thumb.  It's time for a change.  And for those not wanting to vote Republican come April, we can get a candidate in place with a long history as a city employee who understands that we can't continue to be competitive with Champaign and the ever-growing Savoy if we continue to hold up the ideals of the Prussing administration.  This economy needs a boost....and that must come in the form of leadership change at the top. 

rainhorizon wrote on January 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Cry me a river.  Mr. Wakeland appears to be doing very well for himself, thank you very much.  He owns at least 9 rental properties in prime locations---which in this town means he has plenty of money coming in.  If the council's action stymies "business development"--the only business it will impact is the one man who is making a very good living for himself as it is.  I reject the idea that he is rezoning to benefit the greater good of Urbana or Champaign (did you not see he owns properties on W. Church and if I'm not mistaken, on Park St. just to the south)?  I don't believe the greed of one local landlord should overrule the wishes of the homeowners around him.  GOOD FOR URBANA!