URBANA —- Champaign County Board members approved rezoning a 10-acre tract 2 miles north of Champaign for an 11,300-square-foot event center by the owners of the L.A. Gourmet Catering  business.
The rezoning was opposed by the Hensley Township Plan Commission, which cited concerns about drainage, traffic, public safety and health.
Click here for a 9.9MB, 37-page memo  about the rezoning.
But the county's zoning board of appeals recommended approval with several special conditions, and several Hensley Township residents Tuesday night spoke in favor of the request.
Meeting as a committee of the whole, county board members approved the rezoning from AG-1 to AG-2 by a vote of 24-1. Only Champaign Democrat Pattsi Petrie opposed the rezoning.
The owners of the business, Lauren and Anne Murray, said they plan to spend $2 million developing the event center that would include 8,256 square feet of meeting space, plus gardens and ponds.
Final action on the rezoning will come at the full county board meeting later this month.
Also, the board conditionally approved spending up to $126,000 to improve its meeting space at the Brookens Center in east Urbana. Under the plan the video and audio systems in the meeting room would be replaced and upgraded, a U-shaped layout for the 22 board members (effective in December) would be put into place, and new tables and chairs would be provided for board members.
In addition more comfortable, airport-style seating could be provided in the public area of the room, said County Administrator Deb Busey.
Money for the project would come from a number of sources, including the county clerk's office, the county information technology line item, the county board and a capital asset replacement fund.
"Collectively, we can put together a budget for this update and improvement with our existing FY2012 budgets, without the need for an additional appropriation from the general corporate fund balance," said a memo to the county board from Busey, County Clerk Gordy Hulten, facilities director Alan Reinhart and information technology director Andy Rhodes. "We also think the improvements will provide at a minimum, a 15-20-year solution and enhanced operation to benefit the county board and the public it serves."
If the full county board decides later this month to go along with the project, the board's November meetings would be held at a different room in the Brookens Center, and the new facility would be ready for use on Dec. 3.
On a 14-11 party-line vote board members approved hiring the Institute for Law and Public Policy Planning of Berkeley, Calif., to provide consulting services for a county jail needs assessment. There was no debate on the issue, which was opposed by all 11 Republicans at the meeting.
And the board voted to undertake several thousand dollars' worth of repairs to the 32-year-old downtown Urbana correctional center, including replacement of a failed air-conditioning compressor, mortar replacment and tuckpointing of its exterior walls, replacement of main corridor locks, making changes to increase the jail's natural light, and cleaning and painting of cell blocks. Full cost estimates for all of the work is not available, Reinhart said.
He said none of the problems affect the structural integrity of the building, but they eventually could.
Two of 27 board members — Democrat Jan Anderson and Republican Steve Moser — were absent.