MTD annexes Savoy subdivision despite residents' objections

CHAMPAIGN — Over the strenuous objection of residents, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board voted Wednesday to annex the Prairie Meadows subdivision in Savoy.

The vote was 5-2, with board members Linda Bauer, Willard Broom, Brad Diel, Ron Peters and Don Uchtmann voting for the annexation, and Margaret Chaplan and Jermaine Raymer voting against.

Although the annexation takes effect immediately, residents of the subdivision, located south of Church Street and east of U.S. 45, won't begin paying property taxes to the MTD until the spring of 2015.

Over the weekend, said Prairie Meadows resident Christy Arnold, representatives of 59 of the 66 homes in the subdivision signed a petition asking the MTD to hold off on the annexation.

"It just feels like we're being forced into something that we don't need or want," she told MTD board members. "It just feels like it's all about getting the money."

Resident Brian McCoy agreed, saying "this feels like a rush to generate our tax money to help support the MTD. But 59 of the 66 residents signed a petition that says we don't want and/or need services. I don't know how we could possibly come up here and tell you any more than we don't want it, we don't need it."

Members of the group were disappointed after the board vote.

"But we can't do anything about it now. There's no legal action we can take, there's no way around it. We're stuck," said resident Natalie Erickson, who urged the MTD board to delay the annexation.

They estimated they would pay $250 to $300 more per year in property taxes because of the annexation. Homes in the subdivision, they said, are valued at $250,000 to $300,000.

Wednesday's annexation vote was the first in a series of six scheduled to come before the MTD board over the next year.

Board member Chaplan had suggested postponing the annexation.

"I recognize the MTD's authority to annex even though the residents object, the existence of agreements with all of the governmental units involved, and the policy that the district's boundaries ideally should correspond with the city's boundaries," she said. "But just because we can do it doesn't necessarily mean we should so it."

She said the annexation "does no good for the MTD's image and it only reinforces the negative stereotypes" about it.

But Bauer argued that "sitting on this board ultimately I'm looking at what's best for the community in order to provide the best service, and to have an orderly growth."

Earlier the board members informally reaffirmed a 13-year-old MTD policy that said the transit district would "exercise its authority to annex all areas not taxed as farmland within the cities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy. As these municipalities extend their jurisdictional boundaries, MTD will follow suit with subsequent annexations."

"If we were to pass over Prairie Meadows at this time, what do we tell the next area we want to annex?" said Diel. "And as far as paying taxes and not feeling like you get services, I pay taxes to the Champaign school district and I've never had any children and I don't anticipate having any children in the school system, and I pay taxes for it. I also pay taxes to the MTD and I've never ridden an MTD bus in my life.

"That being an example of it's a service we don't use and a service that we don't want. I understand that, but it's a community resource and the community should pay for it."

Uchtmann, the chairman of the MTD board, said "I give great deference to the voters of this community who opted to create a mass transit district in the first place back in the '70s. In my view in so doing they were defining our community, our shared burden in which public transportation was viewed as a public good, a way in which we care for one another as a community, those who can drive and those who can't."

Also Wednesday MTD board members learned that July ridership was 485,152, or 8.5 percent greater than that in July 2012. It extended the bus system's string of ridership records to 11 consecutive months.

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 28, 2013 at 7:08 pm
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Taxation despite representation.

Mr Dreamy wrote on August 28, 2013 at 8:08 pm

A great photo epitomizing the whiney NIMBY Savoyards. 

Joe American wrote on August 29, 2013 at 9:08 am

So I'll proceed with feeding the troll anyway, Mrs Creamy.  If the residents of an area don't want busses cruising down their quiet streets, what's the problem?  Don't like it because it doesn't fit your agenda of being forcefed by quasi-governmental agencies?

hellotoyou wrote on August 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I am one of the residents in PM and I thought I would address a few things:

No, this is not just about the taxes. There were many arguments made at the 2 meetings I attended and here is a summary of them:

- I inquired of the entire MTD for more information so I could be more educated on this annexation and they never supplied me with any of it until AFTER the meeting and the vote.

- They gave us very little notice about this vote even happening. Again, I inquired about it over 10 days in advance and it wasn't until my second email 4 days before the meeting that someone finally informed me that the vote was coming.

- In 4 days we got a petition signed by 90% of the homeowners in PM asking for the annex to be deferred at least 5 years until our subdivision was more developed since they were only after phase 1. We would have had more than 90% except that we only had 4 days and some people weren't home when we went around for the signatures multiple times.

- The two board members that voted in our favor both agreed that the policy states that public input should be considered and ours clearly wasn't as I don't know how much more support we could have shown with 90% participation.

- Fellow neighbors have sat outside and watched empty or nearly-empty buses drive by all day. This is clearly not a service that our neighborhood needs and the only reason it drives down that road to begin with is to service the students at Colbert Park apts who already have their own apts buses. We are fine with the buses still driving by but we don't feel like we should pay for a route that isn't needed by the overwhelming majority of residents living in the area.

Basically, the MTD was just flexing their muscles and annexing us "because we can." They have no need for our tiny neighborhood (except our money) and we don't impact any routes through our neighborhood because there aren't any streets out the other side. People should look at a PM on a map and see this tiny little section that they just annexed in and then tell me that they were not just out to get our money vs helping the greater community.

Again, we were not even asking to be completely immune to annexation. We only want to defer it until we are a complete subdivision and we want to be given the information in advance so we can at least be prepared and understand what they are forcing us into since our area doesn't need this service to begin with. The MTD just rushed to annex us in despite the overwhelming majority opposing it.

Dan Newman wrote on August 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm

If it's long-standing policy that the MTD will "annex all areas not taxed as farmland within the cities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy," and the residents live in Savoy, I'm having difficulty understanding the complaints beyond the obvious: "I don't want to pay more in taxes." Is there more to it than that?

Also, is the quote by MTD Board member Brad Diel correct? "I ... pay taxes to the MTD and I've never ridden an MTD bus in my life." Are there really MTD Board members who've never ridden an MTD bus? That seems problematic.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 29, 2013 at 9:08 am
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He's a firefighter. It makes perfect sense for a firefighter to encourage taxation for unused public services.

citydweller wrote on August 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I've never "paid" for a ride on a MTD vehicle. Been on several to attend Illini basketball games, but that was to avoid parking at the State Farm Center. I can't use the system to get to and from work.

Mr Dreamy wrote on August 29, 2013 at 7:08 am

Rob, if being a "hipster sasshole" won't convince them, why don't you try being something else?

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 29, 2013 at 9:08 am
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Do you have anything substantive to contribute? Some people take this stuff seriously.

svirpridon wrote on August 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

"You" tax "them" to help pay for the roads, even if "they" don't have a car to drive. "They" tax "you" for bus service. Seems fair enough to me.

And yes, I've ignored all sorts of externalities.

Mr Dreamy wrote on August 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

We've been down this road before with the SWMTD. I don't have kids in Unit 4, why should I pay school taxes? I don't have students at Parkland, why should I pay those  taxes? I live in town, not in the country, I don't use the Sheriff, why should I pay? I don't use the court system, why should I pay?

Because it is for the common good we share expenses of governmental operations.

NIMBY's are selfish and are not good citizens. They have no credibility when measured against the needs of the rest of us, which have been evidenced by the election of county board members who appoint the MTD board.

Democracy sometimes means that the individual doesn't get their way, when the other point of view is in the majority. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 29, 2013 at 11:08 am
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I think you suffer a fundamental misunderstanding of ... well, just about everything.

 

First, majority rule: These people had the numbers on their side.

 

Second, minority rights: The US Constitution requires a republican form of government. It's specifically designed to protect from the drooling masses, the madding crowd.

 

Finally, the concept of NIMBY: People are always most vigilant about their own property, their own space, and their own lives. They speak from a sense of their own reality, not from an ideology. You're writing in the abstract. That's ideological.

 

Why do people live in Savoy? It's for lower taxes; a big garage fronting the house; to keep away from the college kids, the public housing, the nightlife. They don't want non-neighborhood people passing through the neighborhood. That's why they moved there. Call it "white flight" if you want to continue with the pejoratives. But there's certainly some rationale to keeping quiet, sleepy streets. Small children, for example.

 

It's not my ideal. But I am not them. I won't try to impose my values on them.

Nice Davis wrote on August 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Way to sidestep everything he said about being taxed for services he doesn't personally use or affirmatively ask for.

bb wrote on August 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

I had to read that part about Brad Diel twice too.  But then it kind of makes sense - you want the board to reflect the public, some of whom never ride the MTD.  Maybe he can bring some insight to what type of service he WOULD ride.  Or maybe he just figures he doesn't need to use it but understands how valuable it is for others.  You'd kind of think he'd want to take a ride just for kicks sometime though.

 

Kremlin Watcher wrote on August 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

Let's be honest. Most people who claim to live in Savoy do not really live there. Savoy is where they put their heads down at night, eat breakfast, mow the lawn on the weekend, etc. But they probably work in Champaign-Urbana, shop mostly in Champaign, attend Champaign schools, go to church and see their doctors in Champaign-Urbana. Many prefer to use the Champaign public library. In short, they live in the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area. Fairness demands that they help pay their fair share. That includes the MTD.

choco640 wrote on August 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

What does NIMBY stand for?

mankind wrote on August 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

Not In My Back Yard. 

citydweller wrote on August 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

As I stated last night, I've never paid for a ride on a MTD vehicle beyond what I currently pay in property taxes. I have been on several to attend Illini Basketball games, but that was to avoid parking at the State Farm Center. I can't use the system to get back and forth to work. I should have been more clear with the intent of my statement at the meeting.

Brad Diel

mankind wrote on August 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm

If you don't like public agencies using the public road in front of your house, you gotta build your own road. 

jlc wrote on August 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Rob, can you point out for us where it says that buses are going to be running through the "quiet sleepy streets" of this subdivision?

 

Dan Newman wrote on August 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

But... the vast majority of these residents likely moved to Savoy knowing that there was service in their city from the MTD.

Do they oppose all service to Savoy by the MTD? If not, who should pay for service to Savoy if not the city's residents?

Unlike some other MTD arguments that have come up, this is not about running busses through their neighborhood, but simply about paying for a service in their city.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm
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I wouldn't assume that knowledge. But I would assume a lot of them moved in before the 1 Yellow routed through. I'd also assume the Yellow's Savoy leg is primarily used by students living in the Curtis & First Street apartments, employees of the Curtis & Dunlap shopping complex, and maybe even teenagers seeing a movie.

 

 

 

 

 

That part about the teenagers is a joke, of course. Obviously their helicopter moms drove them, until they were sixteen and emancipated.

Huh wrote on August 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm

CUMTD's budget is as bloated as the riders they serve. With the exception of the college students, most riders are horribly out of shape and many are morbidly obese. On top of this, it costs about $6 per ride based on their budget and the number of true rider's that use the MTD. That is regardless of how short their ride is. If you charged the riders the true cost of their ride, and if MTD had to make their revenue only from the rider fees, they would shrivel up overnight. If a rider gets on at one stop, and off at the next block and it still costs the MTD an average of $6 per ride!!! MTD is out of control (or totally in control) with their budgeting and their thirst for tax dollars is unquenchable. Volk's pension proves it. He should have been fired a LONG time ago for mismangement of public funds, instead they reward him with a fat salary and super fat pension. Even better, he should have been serving time in prison for the hundreds of millions of dollars that he has wrongly taxed the residents of Champaign County. I have more respect for bank robbers, their take is always less, and they are normally caught and punished. MTD stands for "More Tax Dollars"!

Nice Davis wrote on August 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm

You have a poor handle on facts.

 

Also, tell me a little more about how MTD riders don't internalize the entire costs of their trip but drivers do. Go on...show me that your road usage as a driver is directly proportional to the price you pay for usage.

hellotoyou wrote on August 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I wanted to also share the ridership info I received from Mr Volk today. I'm a PM resident and I constantly watch empty or mostly-empty buses driving down Old Church so I asked the Board for the info. In April 2013 (the only month he provided me) there was an average of 169 riders on that route. Since our route has "premium" service it runs every half hour seven days/week from after 6a till about midnight. That averages out to only about 6 riders per bus route. This is obviously wasting everyone's money!! 

Mr Dreamy wrote on August 29, 2013 at 8:08 pm

"CUMTD's budget is as bloated as the riders they serve. With the exception of the college students, most riders are horribly out of shape and many are morbidly obese." Snap!

Most non-riders are horribly ugly, and many are dumb as bricks.

Makes about as much sense.

 

ericbussell wrote on August 30, 2013 at 3:08 am

I'm extremely dissapointed in Brad Diel and the other members of the MTD board who voted in favor of annexation.  The MTD can make a great case to the taxpayers of Savoy to get them board, but are instead choosing to force the service down their throats.  Then again, they have to find some way to pay those pension costs (http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/columns/2013-06-29/jim-dey-mtd-directors-big-raises-sweeten-his-pension.html).

C-U Townie wrote on August 30, 2013 at 6:08 am

This is a no-win situation. Darned if you do, darned if you don't. Yes, the PM residents could eventually be cajoled into paying for the MTD service to their area. But that's waiting until they feel it is justified to do so. And I would wonder what would have to happen for them to feel it is justifiable to have service. Do we need more student housing in that neck of the woods? Do we need more shopping areas? Or maybe you put the transportation to that area and with heavier (eventual) traffic there will be a need for more economic growth in that area. 

But it's all speculation. And basing it solely on the fact that there were only 169 reported for a month, yes, it will seem like it's a waste. The bottom line is that people need to see past their self-interest, as inconvenient as that might be. The Savoy residents utilize Champaign resources. If they had to pay for their true usage of Champaign resources I'm sure they wouldn't be too excited about that either. 

I'm sure there will be more arguments coming up like this one when public housing goes off of Staley Road. More people in their little segregated parts of the community complaining about sharing space with the undesirable. It's really unfortunate that as a society the almighty dollar trumps human decency and people can't see beyond the end of their own noses. If Savoy experienced some type of natural disaster... or another event that required money to be spent to fix or improve the conditions there I'm sure they would demand that the County or whoever else pitch in to ensure that they receive what I'm sure they feel they deserve. 

Here's a thought. If you don't like the taxes then move. I'm sure you can find another $250k home somewhere else. Try Mahomet. I hear MTD doesn't run there. ;)

jlc wrote on August 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I don't understand the insistence in so many comments, including those of residents of the subdivision in question, that because they don't personally ride the bus or see a lot of people on the bus that goes near their house, they should be excused from contributing financially to the system. The thing is, they still benefit from the bus system's existence: people at their workplace or at the places where they shop are able to get to work, students are able to get to school, elderly and disabled people are able to get around (keep in mind that everyone will fall in the former category someday, and some of us in the latter), people who drink too much have an alternative to getting behind the wheel, sick people are able to get to the doctor, etc., etc. Can I be excused from paying taxes to the public schools, community colleges, and park districts because I don't have any kids?