Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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Enterprise zone legislation, bicycle trail planning, comprehensive plan revisions top regional planning commission discussions

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[December 12, 2012]  The Logan County Regional Planning Commission met Dec. 5 for their scheduled monthly meeting. There were a few important topics up for discussion: enterprise zone legislation, bicycle trail planning and revisions to the comprehensive plan.

Enterprise zone legislation

Enterprise zone manager and zoning officer Will D'Andrea told the planning commission that he recently attended a conference for zoning officers. At the conference, new legislation concerning enterprise zones was brought to light.

"They started the conference by saying, anything you know about the enterprise zone's administration you can forget about because the whole landscape has changed," said D'Andrea. "There is a whole new set of criteria for applications."

D'Andrea also said that now the enterprise zone in Logan County is set to expire in 2016. At that time, all of the enterprise zones will expire and fall under the new legislation guidelines. New applications will have to be submitted by any governing body in Illinois that wishes to have such a zone. The new zones will have different borders than the current zones.

D'Andrea said he will begin providing material to the city and county organizations early next year, after he has received more information as to the new guidelines. D'Andrea is expecting that a new application will need to be filed in 2013.

One of the consequences of a change in legislation involves the 10-year tax abatement that comes with working in the enterprise zone. As the new legislation stands, the tax abatement will still end with the expiration of the zone, even if the 10-year period is not over.

D'Andrea said that because of this, he will have to tell every property owner who is currently in the zone or will be in the future that their benefits may prematurely expire and they will have to file a new report with the Department of Revenue.

"If we lose the enterprise zone, we are going to have to look at other ways to make ourselves attractive," said Bill Martin. "What we need to keep in the back of our minds is that if we don't get it, we're not dead and defeated. We've got other things we can do."

Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder also added that the enterprise zone makes the job of attracting new businesses to Lincoln a lot easier.

As Bill Graff put it, "it's one more wrench in the toolbox."

Bike trail plan

D'Andrea provided an update on the potential bicycle trail plan to be implemented in Logan County. D'Andrea said that in November he and county engineer Bret Aukamp met with the Farnsworth Group. Farnsworth presented four initial drafts, using suggestions from various Logan County citizens and officials. Of the four drafts, two covered parts of Logan County -- the northern and southern halves, one covered Lincoln, and one covered Atlanta.

D'Andrea said that Farnsworth representatives should be present at the February planning commission meeting to provide an updated draft based on feedback from D'Andrea and Aukamp.

Graff also mentioned that as part of the bike trail planning, the commission was considering lobbying the Illinois Department of Transportation to build the new bridge over Salt Creek large enough to include a trail that would connect to the rest of the overall bike plan. As it stands now, Salt Creek creates a barrier that is difficult to cross with bicycle trails.

Comprehensive plan revisions

The discussion returned to the Logan County Comprehensive Plan. The planning commission had begun to examine the plan in October in order to determine what revisions should be made.

Crane suggested that as part of the evaluation of the current plan, the commission could return to a previous strategy. When Martin was chairman, he provided a survey to the commission members, asking about what members wanted to see become a priority.

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Graff took the idea a little further by suggesting that the commission talk to outside organizations to find direction. As an example, he mentioned that someone could talk to trucking companies to see what road conditions in Logan County are really like.

Martin agreed that talking to the public would be a good idea. "That's the only way we're going to get that information," he said.

"I think that when you get that information, you're going to end up updating the plan at the same time," added Graff.

Martin said he would try to find the survey for the commission to look at again in the near future. D'Andrea said he would try to find meeting minutes from any discussions the commission may have had previously about the surveys.

New secretary

Another item of business was the introduction of a new face to the planning commission. Dawn Pettus will be taking over as secretary for the purpose of creating meeting minutes for the planning commission. Previously, Graff, the chairman, was providing minutes.

Pettus has worked with the Logan County Joint Solid Waste Agency since April. Planning commissioner Fred Finchum, who also works with the waste agency, said that Pettus does a fine job at that agency, and he welcomed her to the planning commission meetings.

Planning commission budget

At the November meeting of the planning commission, the budget for next year was approved after adjustments were made to the initial draft. At Wednesday's meeting, a cleaned-up second draft of the budget was given to commission members. This draft had also been updated to reflect the changes made to budgetary numbers at the previous meeting.

Graff took the opportunity to thank D'Andrea and Derrick Crane for their work on the budget drafts. Graff also said that he would like to see the commission take time during the next fiscal year to come up with new written budgetary guidelines.

Future meetings

The January meeting will be a holiday dinner for the planning commission members. As a result, there will be no business discussed until the meeting in February.

D'Andrea said that at the February meeting he is expecting that the commission will see a proposal for a pet cemetery. This cemetery would be unrelated to the one being built by the Humane Society of Logan County. D'Andrea said he is waiting for the last pieces of paperwork before the commission is approached by the owners.

Planning commission members present were chairman Bill Graff, Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder, Blair Hoerbert, Bill Martin, Atlanta Mayor Fred Finchum, Derrick Crane and Gerald Lolling. Doug Muck and zoning officer Will D'Andrea were also present.


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