Lake Park residents oppose MTD annexation

Subdivision residents object to paying for service they won't use

SAVOY — A group of Lake Park residents spoke out against a proposed Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District annexation of the subdivision during a public hearing this week at the Savoy Recreation Center.

Residents of the unincorporated subdivision between Champaign and Savoy along South First Street objected to paying for a service they said they won't be using.

"It is not a growing, expanding community," Lake Park resident Glenda Lane said, noting that most residents are retirees. "It was started in 1958, and we're older homes. It's very pastoral, very charming."

MTD managing director Bill Volk clarified that buses would not be going down Lake Park's streets.

"What are we going to get for our tax dollars that might be a benefit to us?" Lake Park resident Dick Norton asked during Thursday night's hearing.

Volk said the MTD offers Americans with Disabilities paratransit service for those unable to use the bus. The curb-to-curb service has a van come to people's homes with a reservation made 24 hours in advance.

In addition, the DASH card for seniors and Medicare cardholders allows people to use cabs at half-fare, with a monthly limit. Those 65 and older are not charged to ride the bus, Volk added.

"The whole idea of mobility is to make it available because people may need it at some point," MTD board Vice Chairman Linda Bauer said.

Norton asked whether the annexation were a "done deal."

"A lot of it depends on the long-range plan," Bauer said. "You are contiguous with other parts of the MTD."

Bauer said one of the conditions placed on the MTD when voters approved its creation in the 1970s was that there wouldn't be a "honeycomb" bus service area.

"We are coming here to gather information to make our final decision," Bauer said.

Norton noted that although residents of the 72-lot Prairie Meadows subdivision in Savoy presented the MTD board with a petition protesting its annexation last year, the MTD annexed it anyway.

"This is taxation without representation," Norton said.

MTD board Chairman Don Uchtmann said that because Champaign, Urbana and Savoy are contiguous, they can be viewed as a single community.

"We share in the cost," Uchtmann said. "I think we share in the indirect benefits — more jobs, employers and sales tax revenue."

Lane noted that parts of Lake Park are under a forestry program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program and asked how that would affect taxation.

"If it is not taxable as farmland, it is annexable," Volk said.

Volk said that for a $300,000 home in the annexed area, taxes would increase by $300.

Lane said the subdivision has 27 acres of houses and 40 acres of commons. MTD officials said each tax parcel within the subdivision would be taxed.

When asked if Savoy residents had voted to create a mass transit district, Volk said that only Champaign and Urbana residents voted on the issue but the Savoy village board approved an annexation agreement with the MTD in 2008.

Under the agreement, some parts of Savoy — such as the Prairie Fields subdivision directly south of Lake Park — will not be annexed for 20 years.

In answer to a question about where bus stops would be located, Volk said there would likely be ones at the north and south ends of the subdivision. Shelters would only be put in place if the bus stop has a high volume of use, Volk explained.

The earliest a vote will likely be taken is at the MTD's regular meeting later this month, Uchtmann said.

Christine Walsh is editor of The County Star, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit county-star.com.

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