City to talk Unit 4 referendum plans

City to talk Unit 4 referendum plans

CHAMPAIGN — Two days before school starts in Unit 4, the city council will review a plan for Champaign schools' referendum-related construction, one that includes chopping down trees, removing streetlights and making room for buses.

The proposed regulation plan between the city and school district, to be discussed Tuesday night, addresses general construction aspects with an emphasis on Central High School, McKinley Field and Dr. Howard Elementary.

Bruce Knight, the city's planning and development director, said the plan only covers early phases of the referendum, and that more regulations will be drafted as the five-year, six-school, $183.4 million project goes on.

One point the proposed plan touches on is zoning. It states that Unit 4 will make a good faith effort to comply with Champaign's existing zoning regulations.

"We'll process projects where (Unit 4) needs zoning flexibility by calling them 'planned developments,' Knight said. "We can't just waive zoning requirements, so there needs to be a due process."

When construction work leads to cutting down trees in the public right-of-way, the plan calls for Unit 4 to pat to replace them one-for-one — likely before each facility project is finished.

Knight said the city's forestry division will work with Unit 4 on picking replacement trees.

Knight noted that the city is looking for a diversity of species, as well as ones that aren't susceptible to disease.

The proposed plan also excuses Unit 4 from paying permit fees for the projects.

"That's a courtesy we give to the other units of government that have the same taxpayers that we do," Knight said.

Other regulations being proposed, according to the plan:

— Unit 4 will uproot historic landmark streetlights along Lynn Street, store them in the city's public works facility and reinstall them between Hill and Church streets when construction is done.

— The city will enforce restricted school-hour parking in areas around Central to make room for student pickup and drop-off. There will also be a new bus loading zone on the east side of New Street, between University and Park avenues.

— Historic streetlights by Dr. Howard will be removed and stored by the city, which will then install new conduits, junction boxes and wiring for streetlight reinstallation. If a streetlight is in too poor condition to be reused, Unit 4 will replace or pay to replace it.

— The city will design a rain garden near Dr. Howard as part of its West Washington stormwater project. Unit 4 will construct it and the city will pay additional building costs, as well as maintain the garden after completion.

— Unit 4 will construct a circle drive south of Dr. Howard, accessible by University Avenue, for student pickup and drop-off.

Regulations on sports field lighting design are also addressed in this plan after residents expressed concern about it during a February council meeting. The plan calls for lighting to be designed "with the intent that ... light falls within the primary playing or activity area as much as possible, and off-site light trespass is reasonably minimized."

For improvements to McKinley Field, the plan includes an additional 48 parking spaces.

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