RANTOUL – The Rantoul Plan Commission has decided it doesn't want commercial development on North Murray Road after all.
With more than 40 neighborhood residents opposed to the commercialization of the area on hand and after receiving a petition opposing commercial development signed by more than 50 residents, the Rantoul Plan Commission voted 5-2 to reverse a decision it made last month calling for making both sides of the road commercial property as part of Rantoul's 20-year comprehensive plan.
The original plan as developed by University of Illinois students and village staff over a four-year period called for making the west side of North Murray Road interstate commercial and the east side of the road residential.
The entire property is now agricultural.
Last month, the plan commission modified the original plan to allow a strip of land east of Murray Road, north of the Super 8 motel and south of the railroad tracks to become commercial property after hearing an appeal from Joe Murray, a trustee for the Murray Trust, which owns the property.
Murray said he believes there will be demand for commercial development along North Murray Road after the new Wal-Mart Supercenter is completed on South Murray Road.
But scores of residents of the Indian Hills neighborhood protested the change, concerned about noise from the commercial businesses and possible decreased property values if businesses were built near their single-family homes.
In response to those concerns, the Rantoul Village Board last month sent the entire matter back to the plan commission for reconsideration.
At a meeting on Monday night, residents of Indian Hills expressed concerns about putting a series of stores, restaurants and other businesses so close to their homes.
Christy Schurter of Indian Hills said she lives in a quiet neighborhood and would like to keep it that way.
"Unnecessary commercial development limits the ability for Rantoul to have residential growth," Schurter said.
Another resident, Earl Weichel, said the commission needed to consider the feelings of all Rantoul citizens, not just the Murray family.
"You are putting the wants and desires of one family over the wants and desires of the entire neighborhood," Weichel said.
Resident Connie Shields said she fears commercial development on North Murray Road will lead residents to move out of Rantoul.
"The taxpayers of our area are paying the highest taxes of anybody," Shields said. "Give me a reason to stay in Rantoul."
Murray said that as long as the comprehensive plan calls for commercial development west of Murray Road, it would be difficult for him to develop his land residentially.
"Rantoul has struggled with residential development since the base closure announcement," Murray said. "We feel that, if we aren't considered for commercial zoning, our land will never be commercial."
The plan commission ultimately voted 5-2 to approve a compromise proposed by commissioners Mike Daughterty and Dennis Stubblefield.
Joining Daugherty and Stubblefield in supporting the proposal were commission chairman Charles Park and commissioners Jeff Schlueter and Lori Shields.
Commissioners Roy Marcelin and Doyle Beesley voted against the plan.
Not only does the Daughterty/Stubblefield compromise call for making the Murray Trust property east of Murray Road residential, but it also makes the west side of Murray Road residential as well.
Only a strip of land adjacent to Interstate 57 large enough to accommodate medium-sized box stores on a frontage road would remain commercial under the compromise.
Monday's compromise will delay the process of approving a new comprehensive plan for at least three months.
The commission decided to hold another meeting on the plan on Jan. 23 to give the owners of land west of Murray Road a chance to respond.
If the commission forwards the plan to the village board, the earliest trustees could approve the plan would be Feb. 14, 2006.