Sunday Extra: Commission made right decision on Burnham House

Sunday Extra: Commission made right decision on Burnham House

By EDWARD KOLODZIEJ

Kudos for the Champaign Plan Commission's rejection of the city's staff and PACA minority proposal for historical landmark status for Burnham House.

The News-Gazette's account in the three-hour marathon session fails to adequately explain the multiple reasons for the commission's informed decision.

First, landmark status for Burnham is financially unrealistic. Funds are simply not available from any private source to upgrade it. Scrutiny of Burnham reveals a fading exterior concealing a deteriorating interior, a landmark disappearing like the Cheshire cat in "Alice in Wonderland."

Second, and further down the rabbit hole, Burnham proponents would divert public funds to renovate the property and damage creation of an integrated Central High School campus.

Third, by a three-to-one margin, Champaign voters decisively affirmed their support for the renovation of Central High School and the rejuvenation of the CHS community.

Fourth, landmark proponents view planning and community enrichment from a rearview mirror. They are focused on individual properties and the pursuit in this case of an unredeemable past. The News-Gazette report poses the issue as a choice between Burnham and parking lot. That misapplies relevant, but ignored, planning and landmark criteria.

Champion a future-looking, community approach to these two objectives, Champaign voters and Unit 4 are creating an up-to-date teaching environment for thousands of students and a vibrant Central High School community, not a parking lot.

Champaign citizens had to replace the former school board and elect a visionary majority to abandon the mindless proposal to construct a new high school on the outskirts of the city and thereby condemn the center ofthe city to gradual neglect and deterioration.

What part of "no" do Burnham proponents — the politically tone-deaf planning staff and PACA minority — fail to get? Let's move forward without further distractions to ensure Central High School as a leading learning institution and the surrounding community's resuscitation as the prized core of the city of Champaign.

Edward Kolodziej lives in Champaign.