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"Location, location, location" - those are supposed to be the three most important factors in real estate.

But, listening to Twin City land developers talk, one might think the saying should be "fees, fees, fees."

That's a complaint as Normal considers doubling the amount of land that must be dedicated for parks in new subdivisions.

Developers also can donate money instead of land, but Normal has not decided how much that figure would increase.

Before Normal approves an increase in parkland dedication, the Town Council should look at areas in which Bloomington and Normal could coordinate fees. That would limit one aspect of "location" in the real estate debate.

Bloomington requires developers to dedicate 10 acres per 1,000 persons for parkland. Normal is considering matching that instead of its current parkland dedication requirement of 5 acres per 1,000.

Some developers complain that the parkland requirement drives up the cost of housing.

Having the same parkland requirements in each city makes sense. It's not as if Bloomington residents have a greater need for recreation and green space than Normal residents. And residents from each city use recreation facilities in the other - from Bloomington's Miller Park to Normal's water park to softball diamonds in both cities.

But even if the parkland requirements were the same, other differences would remain.

Normal requires land for schools. The amount varies according to the development's density, zoning and type of school needed.

As with parks, developers can pay a fee in lieu of providing land. Bloomington has no provision for school-land dedication - although Normal-based Unit 5 has requested one.

Bloomington's boundaries include both Unit 5 and Bloomington-based District 87. However, nearly all of Bloomington's housing growth has been in Unit 5.

Another difference is annexation fees. Bloomington charges one; Normal does not.

Confused, yet?

It doesn't have to be that way. Bloomington and Normal should have a better coordinated system that meets each city's needs without so many variations in how they handle development fees.

Such coordination exists in some areas, but not all.

Constitution Trail runs through both cities and is used by residents of both - with few people recognizing when they cross the "border" from one city to the next. And that's as it should be.

In an ideal world, operations between the two towns would flow as seamlessly.


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