Tom's #Mailbag, Aug. 31, 2018

Tom's #Mailbag, Aug. 31, 2018

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Terrific variety of questions this week: on the size of political campaign signs, a big residential development coming to Urbana, whether a News-Gazette photo of an arraignment could be considered an invasion of privacy, a big fish known as Big Elmer, fluorescent bulb recycling, low speed vehicles, a new Dunkin Donuts, the oldest family-owned business in C-U and Bruce Rauner's TV ads.

Also infrastructure questions about yard waste, walk signs, street repairs, letters carved into the Champaign City Building and missing speed limit signs.


Yard waste

"Why does the city of Champaign allow small branches and twigs in their yard waste pick up but the city of Urbana doesn't? Do they end up at the same location? As an Urbana resident, I'd like to have the Champaign rules."

No, Champaign and Urbana yard waste does not end up in the same location. Urbana's goes to the Landscape Recycling Center in northeast Urbana. Champaign's goes to a local farmer.

Scott R. Tess, the environmental sustainability manager for Urbana, said that bagged leaf collection is paid for by the U-Cycle fee but a separate fee would be needed to cover the cost of handling branches and twigs, which have to be fed into a grinder to produce mulch, which is sold at the LRC.


Housing development at old water treatment site

"I see a lot of activity at Lincoln & University in Urbana where the water company plant was. Is a big development going in there?

That 9.9-acre site at 601 N. Lincoln Ave. will be the home of The Retreat at Illinois, which bills itself as "luxury student housing" for University of Illinois students, said John Schneider, Urbana's director of community development services.

It will use space once occupied by the Illinois American Water treatment plant plus 11 other parcels on North Lincoln, West Hill and West Church.

The building plan submittal for building permits is under review, he said.

The developer is Landmark Properties of Athens, Ga., which has undertaken similar projects in other university communities, such as Indiana State, Indiana, Michigan, St. Louis University, Louisville, Marquette and Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

As proposed it would include 162 townhouse dwelling units, Schneider said.

At the time the rezoning case went before the Urbana Plan Commission it called for 26 buildings that would be two or three stories tall. The dwelling units would have either two, three or four bedrooms.

Here's the website for the Urbana development:

It's anticipated that the development would be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2019.


Photo an invasion of privacy?

"When I see arraignment photographs such as that for Michael Henslick on (Thursday's) front page, there are frequently clearly identifiable other individuals in the background — at least five in today's photograph. Did photographer Stephen Haas need to get permission to have their likenesses appear in the paper? It would seem a possible invasion of privacy particularly if these 'background' individuals have not been convicted of violating the law (at least not at the time the photograph is printed)."

Good question. I consulted Springfield attorney Don Craven, a media law expert who is frequently called upon by newspapers, including The News-Gazette.

Craven said it is not an invasion of privacy to photograph Henslick and others because Illinois law allows "extended media coverage" of courtrooms and that arraignments are considered an extension of the courtroom. Arraignments are a public process that occur in a public place, he said.

In the situation you cite, Associate Judge John Kennedy ruled in favor of allowing cameras and recorders at the arraignment, acknowledging the Illinois Supreme Court's declaration of the need for transparency in courtrooms.

Craven also noted that each of the individuals in the photograph is incarcerated and that they have jail-produced "mug shots" that are accessible at several web sites.


Dunkin Donuts followup

Last week we received a question about whether a Dunkin Donuts was going into the old Za's cafe site at 2006 W. Springfield Ave. We answered that there was no building permit or permit application.

At the time that was true. But later Friday — probably around the time that the Mailbag went live at 2 p.m. — a permit application was filed at the city of Champaign. Larry Happ, Champaign's building safety supervisor, said a permit application "was submitted on Friday the 24th for a Dunkin Donuts in the west half of the old Za's building."

That permit application is under review by the city.


Rauner TV ads

"In several TV ads for Bruce Rauner, I notice The News-Gazette referenced on several occasions. Does Rauner pay the paper for the right to do this? Is this typical?"

The Rauner campaign does not have to pay The News-Gazette — or any other newspaper whose quotes are used in political ads — for their use.

"Limited use of content authored under copyright, such as the quotes referenced by the reader, falls under the fair use doctrine of copyright law," said John Reed, the newspaper's publisher and the CEO of News-Gazette Media. "It's very typical during election seasons and so long as the use remains limited, The News-Gazette does not charge a licensing fee."


Bulb recycling

Is there a local service for disposing of fluorescent light tubes?"

You can take used fluorescent bulbs to Springfield Electric at 901 N. Mattis Ave., Champaign. The charge is 60 cents per bulb for a 4 foot or less bulb, and $1.20 for a bulb 5 to 8 feet long.

Tepper Electric, 608 S. Neil St., Champaign, also recycles at a cost. It's $1.60 per bulb for screw-in compact fluorescents, 40 to 68 cents per tube (depending on the diameter) for 4-foot tubes, and $1.34 per 8-foot tube.


Low-speed vehicles, not golf carts

Last week we had a question about whether golf carts are legal on Champaign streets (they aren't), but we got more information from two readers:

"Tom, I am the owner of Battery Specialists + Golf Cars on Kenyon Road in Champaign. I wanted to make a clarification on the 'golf carts' that someone had noticed on the street near Champaign Country Club. These vehicles are easily confused with a golf cart but are actually a LSV (low speed vehicle) that is a legally licensed and titled vehicle in the state of Illinois. An LSV is equipped with headlights, taillights, break lights, turn signals, tip over protection and seatbelts. Since 2009 LSVs have been legal to drive on any Illinois street with a posted speed limit of 30 mph or less. All four of the LSVs I have sold to customers that live near Champaign Country Club are licensed by the state, insured and perfectly legal to be driven on the street."


"The information concerning lawful use of a golf carts on streets is true, but the vehicles referred to, while resembling golf carts are actually classified as LSV (low speed vehicles) and are outfitted with appropriate car-like safety equipment."


Big Elmer

"Thanks for your recent answer to a question about Kaufman Lake. I, too, have always had a question about that lake: did anyone ever catch Big Elmer? (Explanation: when I was growing up here in the 1940s and 1950s there was an advertising sign at the lake, actually floating in the lake as I recall, that said 'Catch Big Elmer.')"


"What was the name of the huge fish that was said to be in Kaufman Lake many, many years ago? Was it ever caught?"

Yes, Kaufman's Clear Lake supposedly had a 78-pound catfish named "Big Elmer" that owner Wallace Harrell said he stocked in 1961. He told The News-Gazette that it had come with a shipment of other fish from Iowa. There were never any newspaper stories that it was caught. If Big Elmer did exist he probably would have died in 1966 when a discharge of industrial pollution from the old Humko plant killed what Harrell said were "thousands of fish."


Missing speed limit sign

"Any guess as to the speed limit on Curtis Road between Duncan and Staley? There are no signs posted regarding the limit."

They're coming, said Kris Koester, spokesman for Champaign's public works department.

"Prior to the development of Carle at the Fields this section was rural in nature with an unposted speed limit of 55 mph. With the development, this section will be posted at 45 mph, similar to the rest of Curtis Road in Champaign," he said. "A traffic control order has been generated and the new speed limit signs will be posted this fall."


Street fixes

"I have a three-part question regarding roads in need of repair in Champaign. First, Bradley Avenue from Prospect to McKinley Avenue (very rough). Second, Prospect Avenue from Interstate Drive to Olympia Drive (asphalt is wearing down). Third, Springfield Avenue from Country Brook Apartments to Kaufman Lake (lots of badly filled holes)."

Kris Koester at your service:

— Bradley (Prospect to McKinley) will be resurfaced in 2019.

— Prospect from Interstate Drive to Olympian Drive was completely resurfaced last week and paved shoulders were added. Markings will be installed in about two weeks.

— Springfield Avenue is a state route under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation. The City of Champaign will pass this information on to the district office.


Walk signals

"Could you please ask the city of Champaign why it has so many intersections where someone on foot has to press a 'beg button' to get a walk signal? I just noticed that (this is the case at) Green & Neil. There is no good reason to withhold a walk signal if there's already a green light for cars in the same direction."

Koester for the hat trick:

"This intersection is under the jurisdiction of IDOT since Neil Street is a state route so ultimately the decision to recall a pedestrian phase at this specific location would be up to IDOT. In general, the main reason for requiring push button activation is traffic efficiency.

"If a 'walk signal' comes on every cycle all day (or even just every time a vehicle places a call) there will be times when there are no pedestrians present. In these cases the green light would remain green until the pedestrian clearance time is complete, even if there are no pedestrians or vehicles present. With push button activation, if there aren't any pedestrians present, the signal can shorten the side street time and get vehicles moving on the major street again."


Oldest local businesses

"A follow-up to my question from last week. Which business in C-U (besides Campus Florist) has been in the same family the longest?"

I believe the oldest local business still in the same family is Jos. Kuhn & Co., which traces its lineage back to 1865. It's owned by Dr. William Youngerman, who is the grandson of Isaac Kuhn. Isaac was Joseph Kuhn's son and he was the man who in 1907 built the current four-story building at 33-37 Main St. that houses the men's clothing store.

The News-Gazette considers itself older (1852) but it has not been owned by the same family all that time.



"Couple of questions: 1. I notice on the south side of Champaign's city building engraved letters 'CPD.' Was the police department once located there? 2. Is there a limit to the size of political signs I'm starting to notice around town? There are some rather large ones on Green Street in Champaign."

No. 1, yes, the Champaign Police Department was located in the City Building from 1937 to 1983. The fire department also had been in the building until 1967.

No. 2, in Champaign, said Zoning Administrator Kevin Phillips, political sign sizes are regulated. The largest size allowed in residential areas is 24 inches x 36 inches, he said.

Champaign's only other rule is they be posted only on private property with the consent of the property owner.

"We will have a closer look around on Green Street to see what may have concerned the person who called you with the question," he said.

Urbana has no restrictions on the size of yard signs unless they could be considered a hazard.

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