Their hometown pride is showing

Their hometown pride is showing

Staff writer Ben Zigterman was on hand this week when municipal leaders touted their cities at a meeting of the Champaign County Association of Realtors. Here are the highlights from their remarks:

DIANE MARLIN

Urbana mayor

Marlin said she has been trying to rebuild relationships with the business and development community "with the goal of increasing our (equalized assessed value), lessening the property tax burden on our citizens and supporting growth."

"Thirty percent of our land area is property-tax exempt," Marlin said.

She also talked about her goal to re-imagine the Lincoln Square area: "It's not going to be the retail powerhouse that it was when I came to college, but we have a huge opportunity."

ANGIE BRIX

Champaign councilwoman

Champaign is the fastest-growing city in the state, with a population just over 86,500.

"We have a lot of diverse and friendly neighborhoods with residents who are very passionate about where they live," Brix said. "We're excited about new development, but when it's in a neighborhood, we want to make sure that we maintain its character and integrity."

CHUCK SMITH

Rantoul mayor

A bioengineering technology firm recently bought three of the hangars at the former Chanute Air Force Base for $3.4 million.

The Holiday Inn in Rantoul "is doing more in hotel-motel sales tax than all of our other facilities combined."

A Taiwanese company recently purchased property in Rantoul to build a tapioca production plant and sophisticated headphone sets. Smith said: "I know they don't go together. It's odd. But anyway, we're glad to have them."

TAMI FRUHLING-VOGES

St. Joseph mayor

She said the Kickapoo Rail Trail has the potential to transform St. Joseph: "It runs right through the middle of our community, so the potential ... is, to me, amazing. We've already had one new restaurant open up right along the trail."

She also said the city has a new website that's more reliable than the previous one.

SEAN WIDENER

Mahomet president

"It's always good to hear Champaign is growing in businesses and jobs because they have to live somewhere," Widener joked.

He said Mahomet has streamlined the development process, with projects that used to take four to five years from start to finish now taking two to two-and-a-half years. "We've made the process easier," he said.

JOAN DYKSTRA

Savoy president

Dykstra noted the recent growth of Triptych Brewing, Sherwin-Williams and SportsVet.

By the 2020 census, she expects Savoy to have a population of about 10,000, and she hopes to receive a federal grant to build an underpass at Curtis Road under the railroad tracks. "That actually might happen," she said.

CASSANDRA EVERSOLE-GUNTER

Villa Grove mayor

She said Villa Grove is more than a small town with train traffic and flooding: "We've removed 19 houses, together with FEMA, in the floodway, widened ditches and improved our drainage, so that's an old reputation we would like to put to rest."

The village is about to begin construction on a new water plant, she said.

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