Update: More on One Normal Plaza and the brewery

I just received another FOIA from Normal.  Supporting the brewery was the building owner, Rob Morger.  The Baby fold supported the zoning changes.

By:  Diane Benjamin

Last night the group of citizens opposed to establishments selling alcohol from a building in One Normal Plaza met with Town staff.  Normal brought the big guns:

City Manager Pam Reece

Town Planner Mercy Davidson

Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson

Director of Inspections Greg Troemel

I don’t remember Eric Hanson saying a word however.

I contacted the potential brewer after the meeting, he has found a different location.  That ends the immediate problem, but the proposed zoning changes don’t prevent a similar problem in the future.

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Between 20 and 25 residents of the area attended the 2 hour meeting.  I attended just to document what was said.

The citizens had a prepared list of questions.  They conveyed to the staff alcohol and this part of One Normal Plaza aren’t the “right fit”.  The immediate area has two schools, an indoor swimming pool where kids take lessons, and a large sports area.  The citizens don’t want TIF money or tax dollars used to entice businesses either.  The TIF has no money so any incentives would be tax dollars.

One new item I wasn’t aware of is parents of ISU kids are buying houses for groups to live in while attending school.  The residents don’t want to see packaged beer sold within walking distance and the littering etc that college kids are famous for.

The citizens asked if the brewer had asked to buy the empty lot behind the gymnasium.  Both Reece and Davidson stated “we don’t sell property”.  They evidently forgot about the below value sale on Ft. Jesse to the wife of an employee.  The brewer must not have had the right connections.

The zoning text amendment, started by the Council at staff’s suggestion, is now at the Planning Commission.  The Town claimed the zoning changes were not tied to the potential nano-brewery, but both happened at the same time so it’s hard not to see a connection.

The Planning Commission met on June 4th and heard testimony from Julie Hile.  She supported the brewery and looked forward to relaxing there after work.  The Commission will meet again in July, the changes were held over until then.  The citizens want to meet eye to eye with the Commission, not over zoom.  They did not receive any assurances about the July meeting or that a decision wouldn’t be made in July against their request for in person.

The citizens were also told staff is not going to forward anything they heard to the Planning Commission.  The two hours was a waste of time since “staff” proposed the changes.  Staff should un-propose the changes after hearing from the group.  They won’t.

Recap:  Staff can scheme what they want but citizens have to jump through numerous hoops to override what the staff (who’s salaries they pay) are trying to do.  Democracy!

It gets worse.  The Planning Commission members were appointed by Chris Koos.  Of course that has no material effect on how they rule (cough cough).  If the Planning Commission approves the text amendment then it goes to the Council.

Stan Nord attended the meeting, no other Council members did.  How do you think that vote will go?  If the Council still meets on Zoom this group will not be able to convey their thoughts in person.  We are in Phase 4 as of Friday, public servants need to go back to meeting in-person!

Marc Tiritilli also attended.  He was obviously not leading this meeting.  This issue isn’t political, it’s quality of life for the area residents.

By FOIA I received who supported the brewery.  Besides Julie Hile, her husband Bob Broad who is on the Planning Commission supported it.  Word is he will recuse himself.  RJ McCraken who is running for McLean County Board also supports it. Maria Novotny also supports it, I’m not sure who she is.

Rebecca Africano and her husband Nick opposed it.