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110318-blm-loc-3nlfirestation

The developers of Normal's Blackstone Trails subdivision plan to sell part of the project's proposed footprint as a future Normal fire station.

NORMAL — Residents unhappy with changes to a northeast Normal subdivision, including a new fire station there, got some of what they wanted Thursday — but the station plan will proceed.

iDev, the Normal-based developer behind Blackstone Trails near Hershey and Shepard roads, scaled back plans for smaller lots there after residents said they're concerned about a changing character in the family neighborhood.

"We listened to the community at large (and) the neighborhood and their concerns, and we worked together to come up with the concept plan you see here, which is quite different," said Todd Bugg, an attorney representing iDev. "We're more excited now ... than we were the first time because this is crystallizing as a really good plan."

Rather than increasing from 196 lots to 244, in part to make up for lots lost in the sale of the subdivision's southwest corner for a future fire station, iDev now plans to have 196 lots of varying sizes. That includes some the same size as previous homes and smaller lots in the subdivision's northwest corner.

"We varied the lot sizes and redid the layout and ended up with the same number of lots ... as was originally proposed in 2009, and we feel good about that," said Neil Finlen, a Farnsworth Group engineer working on the project. "The intent is to offer the new product in an area that's the least disruption to (the families who live at the subdivision.) ... This is the compromise."

Town staff members have said they hope for more developments like the new plan to better serve an aging Bloomington-Normal population. That was a major priority in the town's 20-year comprehensive plan approved in 2017.

"We're anticipating we'll have more empty nesters," said Bugg.

The Normal Planning Commission approved the plan Thursday despite more dissent from members of the public in attendance. The plan now goes to Normal City Council for final approval when it meets at 7 p.m. Jan. 22.

Tempers flared during the public hearing as residents questioned the smaller lots and the fire station, including why the station can't go elsewhere in the intersection. Fire Chief Mick Humer noted cost was a factor.

"Why are we experimenting with a quarter of our subdivision?" said resident Troy Tevis of lot sizes. "How about we cap our subdivision where it's at? ... Then you guys can start a new subdivision (in the northwest corner)."

Resident Debbie Schroder said she remains concerned about falling property values due to the fire station. Realtor Ed Neaves told the commission those within about 500 feet of the site could lose 1.8 percent of property value, though other factors including insurance rates can offset those losses.

The station is expected to open in 2020 or 2021 as part of a realignment of the town's fire stations to improve response times.

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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