Wrecking ball awaits for old Rantoul Motel

RANTOUL — A contract to demolish the Rantoul Motel, modifying the Housing Incentive Program and changes in village zoning code were among the topics discussed at last week’s Rantoul Village Board study session

Motel demolition
Owens Excavating and Trucking was the lowest of 10 bidders to demolish the Rantoul Motel on north U.S. 45.

The Oakwood firm bid $39,250 — far below the high bid of $267,000.

Complete removal of the structure and a large portion of the parking lot is included in the bid.

Owens is also required to crate and move the vintage motel sign to a hangar at the former Chanute Air Force Base until it can be repaired. It will come into the possession of the Rantoul Historical Society, according to David Silver, assistant building inspector.

When the hotel is demolished, “we will leave a small drive for the neighbors,” Silver said. “That’s their access for the (nearby) duplex. We will maintain sidewalks. The rest will be green space. It will remove blight and make it available for future development.”

The village board earlier approved purchase of the motel property for $79,000 with the plan to demolish it. The motel, located at 301 N. Century Blvd., was built in 1952. It has been vacant for some time.

Zoning process update
Trustee Terry Workman requested an update on village code updates. The village has placed a moratorium on zoning changes until the code can be changed.

The Regional Planning Commission was hired to modify zoning text and maps.

Silver said the process is a lengthy one and will have involved several meetings of the planning and zoning commission (The zoning board of appeals and planning commission were recently merged into one group).

“What’s happening now is there are some concerns of not having a downtown district space,” Silver said, adding that there has been discussion about making downtown-specific zoning.

“It changes some of the uses of downtown and eliminates some things ... and uses that don’t fit,” Silver said.

Some districts are being renamed, and changes are being made to the CRII district, which encompasses the former Chanute Air Force Base. Silver said the commission is working toward a long-range comprehensive plan of a more industrial use, “which we believe fits those properties better.”

He said it is hoped that the revised code can be presented to the board in September.

Workman asked that the commission meetings be better publicized — not placed in the back of The News-Gazette in the classified ad section. Silver said he hopes to place articles on the matter in the Rantoul Press.

Fiegenschuh said the village has had a number of developers comment that some of the village’s zoning code language is contradictory.He said the change process takes time.

“Honestly, we can’t rush these things through,” Fiegenschuh said.

Brandon said the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund has new guidelines that require the board to certify that the mayor and village clerk work at least 1,000 hours a year to qualify for continued fund participation.

He asked the board to consider passage of such a resolution.

TIF district issue
Workman also asked when the village needs to renew Tax Increment Financing District 1.

The district, which encompasses the base, expires in 2019 after 25 years.

Village attorney Ken Beth said renewal of TIF status is a lengthy process, and it would be best for the village to start working on it now.  

“The only way it can be extended is through an act of the General Assembly,” Beth said. “It’s been the unwritten policy of the assembly that they will not extend it unless you have the full support of every taxing district in that TIF.”

Smith said he and Beth have talked about the extension, and letters are ready to go out to affected taxing districts asking for their continued support of the TIF.

Typically the extension is for another 12 years.

A TIF is a means to promote development, infrastructure and other projects by diverting future property tax revenue increases to fund improvements. However, it affects all taxing districts inside the district, meaning they will not receive increased real estate tax money from that area until the TIF expires.

Housing Incentive Program changes
The board was asked to approve a change in the Housing Incentive Program.

The village board asked that Rantoul City Schools and Rantoul Township High School boards approve participation by Aug. 31. RCS board members agreed to the program, but the RTHS board members said they wanted to wait.

Fiegenschuh asked the board to go ahead with the program with the option of RTHS joining later.

The Housing Incentive Program would refund property taxes on new-home construction or improvements or renovations to existing homes for the first five years. The portion of taxes paid by residents to participating taxing bodies would be refunded in full for the first three years, at 66 percent the fourth year and 33 percent the fifth year.

Fiegenschuh said since the program was announced, he has had two families approach him expressing interest.

The high school district is in a different situation than RCS and the village in that it encompasses feeder schools from several area communities.

Microloan for fish market

The board was asked to approve a $10,000 microloan to Rantoul resident Perry Johnson, who plans to open a fish market in the former carpet store on east U.S. 136.

The microloan committee has recommended approval of the loan request.

The action marks a change in the approval process for microloans. Previously, the microloan committee approved/disapproved requests. However, guideline changes mean the village board must vote on committee recommendations regarding the loans.

Economic Development Director Rebecca Motley said the committee will also enact a more formal financial review process of future applicants.

For sale: lifts and cranes
Public works Director Greg Hazel also asked the board to declare three lifts and cranes surplus property. The equipment was found in the now-closed Grissom Hall on the former base.

The surplus property declaration will allow the village to sell the items.

Hazel also asked for board permission to sell about 1 acre of property on the east side of the airport, which is the west side of Willow Pond golf course.

The property, which had been owned by the Air Force, had some initial environmental concerns, which have since been mitigated.

Hazel said using the public sale approach is less cumbersome than going through the Federal Aviation Administration.

EDA regulation guidelines
The board was asked to approve adoption of revised Economic Development program guidelines.

EDA loan funds are available as a recruitment tool to induce business and industry to locate in the community.

The village was originally given $1.2 million in federal EDA money after the closing of Chanute Air Force Base in 1993. The most-recent EDA loan money ($250,000) went to Holiday Inn Express. Otherwise, the loan money has been largely unused.

Federal regulations required a reworking of the village’s EDA guidelines for the village to continue to retain the funds.

Water tower changes
Hazel asked for two changes totaling $48,125 in the work order on the Maplewood Drive and Campbell Avenue water tower projects.

The biggest price tag is for the addition of the village logo and emblems on the tower at a cost of $38,625 on the Maplewood Drive tower.

The remainder of the cost on the Campbell Avenue tower would be to pay for the enlargement  of the interior wet roof hatch from 24 inches to 30 inches (about $2,000 cost) and replace the interior wet ladder on the tower (about $7,500).

The board also:

— Heard from trustee Sam Hall, who said he would like the village to participate in the Tobacco 21 Initiative, which would raise the allowable purchase age for tobacco to 21. Smith asked Hall to work with Brown on the proposal.

— Was asked to approve a change in the personnel code, authorizing sick leave for the death of a sibling.

— Was introduced to new personnel. Neighborhood Services Coordinator Brenda Runyon introduced new part-time outreach coordinators Leatrice Pace and Breanna Johnson, and  Smith introduced Sherry Brown, who has been appointed to the Citizens Advisory Committee.

— Heard from Smith, who reminded those present that there is still a need for mentors in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. A total of 75 children need mentors.

— Heard from Runyon that the Community Development Block Grant annual action plan would be brought to the board at the Aug. 8 meeting.

— Heard from Fiegenschuh, who asked the board to adopt a leadership philosophy that has been formulated for village personnel.

— Heard from Hall, who asked that the September study session be held at the United Methodist Church’s Gathering Place. Smith said that is a possibility, provided suitable audio and video feeds can be arranged for the meeting to appear on the village webstie.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

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