Town of Normal on verge of expansion, with financial benefits

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:41 PM CST
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NORMAL (25 News Now) - The Normal Town Council may continue to expand the Twin Cities’ opportunities, both financially and geographically, at Monday night’s meeting.

Among the items on the agenda, the council will consider annexing a 72-acre property at the northwest corner of Parkside Road and West Hovey. Privately owned, developers have approached the town for clearance to construct a subdivision called ‘Infiniti Pointe’ on what is currently farmland. Their proposal illustrates the potential for 400 separate properties for construction projects of varying sizes.

It comes at a time the town faces a severe housing shortage. According to a study conducted in 2022, the town came up over 4,300 properties short of demand. Developers are taking notice of the opportunity, as well. Council members say this is one of multiple proposals for alternative developments pitched over the past year.

But the proposals aren’t without some pushback from current residents.

“Firing those engines up again is sometimes a little startling and jolting,” says Normal Town Council member Kathleen Lorenz. “So we’re literally going through those growing pains.”

Lorenz notes longtime neighbors have expressed concerns over the changes to the plot of land that’s so close to their own property lines. But according to fellow council member Stan Nord, the developers have approached neighbors directly to address any complaints. In that respect, he says, the line of communication have been more open than ever before.

For new employees working with companies like Rivian and Ferrero looking for housing, council members say approval could extend past just affordable place to live, but provide a net benefit for the town.

Also on the agenda: a proposal for the former Mandarin Garden Chinese Restaurant on Mall Drive. In January, Normal’s Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously recommended approval for a special use permit. That would allow recreational cannabis dispensary High Haven to replace the restaurant. It would be the town’s second dispensary, a half mile away from its first, Beyond Hello.

Present concerns are honed in on the choice of location.

“The ship has already sailed on whether marijuana should be sold in Normal, my issue has nothing to do with that,” says Nord. “My issue is the surrounding businesses and public safety.”

Council members say their worries lie in high traffic density. While the dispensary itself (and the business it conducts) is getting little pushback from residents, council members point to traffic safety as a major factor, as the roads are already busy throughout the day.

“It’s a very fair issue that we need to address at the council, when part of being local government is making sure there’s safe and adequate vehicular passage,” says Lorenz.

Approving plans would mean having to redirect traffic flow to make sure an increase won’t impact other homes and businesses.

For more information on what else the council will discuss, as well as details for the agenda items discussed here, you can read the full agenda and council packet by clicking the link here.