Village discusses town center district

 

A hot topic at last Tuesday’s village board meeting was a proposed town center in downtown St. Joseph.

The town center would run include almost all of the businesses on Lincoln Avenue from Third Street to Second Street.

“There are misconceptions about why some businesses were left in and some were left out,” said Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges.  “There is no hidden agenda.”

Fruhling-Voges said the town center name has caused some confusion but in reality the zoning would be similar to other towns that have a B1 zoning for a business district.

“The name is nothing but a description,” she said.

The town center district is intended to preserve and enhance the historical village center by providing for a mix of commercial and residential uses, including, but not limited to, retail sales and service, office and multi-family housing, that serves the residents of the Village and surrounding areas. Future mixed-use development is encouraged, and residential dwelling units are permitted above the ground-floor, according to Susan Monte of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.

The town center district would also keep certain businesses out of the down town. These include adult  businesses, gas stations, car dealerships, storage warehouses and bus terminals.

“We need the zoning in place so we can go forward with other projects,” Fruhling-Voges said.  “What is happening in our downtown is exciting. There is no hidden agenda. We are trying to move the village forward.”

Residents at the meeting expressed concern that the new designation would raise their taxes. Fruhling-Voges said the village had talked to the county and was told that a zoning designation does not effect taxes.

A central business district was mentioned in the village’s 2013 comprehensive plan.

Resident Bill Campbell said he had done research and towns similar in size to St. Joseph that had established town centers had not seen an improvement to the local economy.

“What brought in new businesses were TIF districts,’ he said. “They did not notice a dramatic improvement because of this.”

Todd Woods, owner of the St. Joseph IGA, said he felt the village did a poor job notifying the business owners about the proposed change and he said he has concerns about what the zoning change will mean for businesses.

Sam Furrer, who owns a building downtown, said he is in favor of the town center because it makes it clear what is allowed in the downtown area.

“This can keep people from negative impacts,” he said. “It would give more definition to our downtown.”

The board is going to revisit the issue at the second October meeting.
 

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