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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 of a northeast Normal subdivision are unhappy not only with the town's plan to build a new fire station there but also a change in building strategies the developer is requesting first.

About 40 oppose a shift from family homes to smaller units at Blackstone Trails as well as the future station at the northeast corner of Hershey and Shepard roads, they told Normal Planning Commission on Thursday.

"If basically half the neighborhood is turned into one- or two-person houses, it will dramatically change the feel," said Danny Sullivan, a Blackstone Trails homeowner. "I don't know what analysis has been done to assess the potential of (our) home values declining based on the denser housing."

Residents told the commission they're also worried about increased vehicle traffic and similar-looking properties if the developer behind Blackstone Trails, Normal-based iDev, is allowed to reduce the size of future lots and pack in more homes — 244 versus 196 under a previous plan.

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

"This allows us to build (empty nesters) something that they like, something that's nice, rather than more space than they want, to get the upgrades, or a little box somewhere," said Todd Bugg, an attorney representing iDev.

Some residents questioned if the town might be in legal jeopardy if it approves the new plan in violation of a covenant between iDev and homeowners. Normal attorney Brian Day and Bugg said those don't cover future development.

Bugg requested the commission delay both pending decisions on the development — on the plans for future development at Blackstone Trails and rezoning for the new fire station — until its January meeting. Members voted to address them again 5 p.m. Jan. 10 at Uptown Station.

Bugg noted iDev still owns many Blackstone Trails lots like those previously built — 86 homes have been erected in the subdivision's previous phase, versus 150 planned — and has an incentive to keep their value high in concert with working to preserve the property values of current homeowners.

"We're not trying to ram this down everybody's throat. We want it to be something that works for everybody," he told the commission. "If we're going to do (something different), we'd like to do it right."

The town is in the second step of a three-step plan to move its fire stations and improve response times. Step one was shutting down its Adelaide Street station in favor of the new Main Street headquarters; step two is shutting down its College Avenue station for the Hershey Road location; and step three is shutting down its Raab Road station for a new station still to be located.

Residents said they're not opposed to that process but would like the town to consider other property near Blackstone Trails. Homeowner Laurie Wiechert presented the commission with 75 signatures in opposition to the project.

"We're very precise in what we're looking at. If I go farther east even just a block ... it throws off the whole timing," said Fire Chief Mick Humer. "We're running on a very small margin to try to make it work with three stations in this community."

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

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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