Clark Park residents find little to argue about in new report on house, lot sizes

Clark Park residents find little to argue about in new report on house, lot sizes

CHAMPAIGN — For the past two years, conversations have raged in the city council chambers over what to do about home and lot sizes in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, council members took the first significant step in addressing the concerns of residents of the Clark Park neighborhood since the rejection of a preservation district last year.

Members reviewed many proposals prepared for them by the Planning and Development Department, including options that would affect all single-family homes in the city, just homes built before 1965 or just Clark Park through an overlay district. They will take a final vote in the future.

Though less lively than usual, the debate continued during the public-comment period of Tuesday's meeting. But a key difference this time was that many Clark Park residents accepted the findings in the report.

Mike McMillan, a Clark Park resident representing many of those who have spoken out in the past, said he was prepared to go into the council chambers to argue.

But when "figuring out what we should argue about," residents who met last week didn't find much they didn't like about the city's proposals.

"It was surprising," McMillan said. "We thought that city planning did a fantastic job of recognizing our concerns and representing it in this report. And at the same time, it throws in incentives that would encourage new construction. The bottom line is we're truly grateful."

But not all who commented Tuesday were happy with the results.

Jim Anderson of Champaign warned the council of "unintended consequences."

Kurt Baumgartner, an architect, warned that the plan would burden people with an additional level of bureaucracy.

"These are so many changes, I can't tell you what the implications of this will be on my home unless I draw it out and figure it out," Baumgartner said. "If you're a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. So if you ask the planning and zoning department to fix this issue, they'll only come with more rules and regulations. And these are really complicated changes that will be a burden for Clark Park."

And fellow Clark Park resident Deborah Thurston was concerned with McMillan's comments and the reach of the group he represented, saying she and many others were left out of the discussion.

"I'm appalled that this small group of people have been able to get the planning department to spend thousands of hours of their time on this," she said. "They don't speak for us. I wasn't invited to this little gathering. And the recommendations presented here don't even follow the survey results that the planning commission gathered."

Council members will take up the issue again soon for final consideration of city plans.

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