Urbana council gives initial OK to land deal with Habitat for Humanity

Urbana council gives initial OK to land deal with Habitat for Humanity

Hear from Mayor Diane Marlin Tuesday at 4:20 on WDWS.

URBANA — The Urbana City Council on Monday gave its unanimous initial approval to selling city-owned property on Harvey Street to Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County.

The property is at 909 N. Harvey St., near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and King Park. Habitat for Humanity plans to build a house on the site.

This sale now goes to another council vote to be finalized. If it's approved, it will save the city about $450 per year in maintenance costs incurred by the Community Development Block Grant, according to a city staff report.

The block grant is part of the Property Acquisition Demolition Disposition Program, through which the city acquired the property initially. The program's intent is for the city to "purchase, clear, improve and maintain lots in order to promote and support the development of affordable housing opportunities," according to the report.

In other business, the council received an update on Willard Airport from Executive Director Gene Cossey.

Willard added its second airline, United, last June, and Cossey said it hasn't taken anything away from the American Airlines flights at the airport. That and the addition of some more American flights helped 2017 become "a record year over any other years we've had since 2007," he said.

In addition, American kept some flights last year that it typically canceled for seasonal reasons. Overall, Cossey said Willard had more than 104,000 passengers in 2017, including charter operations.

2017 also saw a new Willard website where flights can be booked directly and the addition of an Einstein Bros. Bagels — the airport's first concessions offering since about 2000, Cossey said.

Coming to the airport this year is an automated parking system that aims to speed up the parking process.Cossey said it's being finalized and will be going up soon.

When it comes to competing with other central Illinois airports, Cossey said it's challenging for Willard to be limited by the University of Illinois' budget and not get tax revenue.

"We operate with a lot of subsidy having to come from the university," Cossey said. "Other (central Illinois) airports operate in a tax district and get a total revenue of around $8 million to $15 million, and we're working on around $3.7 million."