NORMAL – The Town Council voted 6-1 in favor of an optional form-based code. The vote was a result of two years of negotiations between the town of Normal and Main Street businesses that opposed the planning initiative. (For a synopsis of form-based codes and opposing views, see Optional Form-based Code Advances in Normal.)
Two people, both from the Main Street Business Association, requested and were granted 7 minutes to speak in front of the council.
Phil Boulds, owner of Mugsy’s Pub and president of the Main Street Business Association, spoke to correct any impression he might have given in a recent public hearing that he supports optional form-based code. He said that he supports development and beautification of Main Street and the current existing city codes, but he opposes form-based code because it puts form over function and is government intrusion upon his rights and liberties.
Dale Naffziger, owner of Growing Grounds in Bloomington, also expressed opposition to optional form-based code. He was dismayed that so much time was devoted to backyard chickens and not to Main Street. Naffziger supported making changes to the current codes to allow more choices, arguing that optional form-based code did not allow for more choice. Naffziger argued that large developments on Main Street, purportedly following form-based design, are unsightly. He also specifically argued against provisions that would prohibit drive-throughs (now stricken from the form-based proposal) as well as the mandate that buildings be close to the street and parking behind buildings.
Some on the council expressed the concern of having two city planning codes for Main Street. Only Jason Chambers voted against it, however. He worried about form-based code becoming mandatory in the future, causing an erosion of public trust.
Cheryl Gaines thought that form-based code was merely a planning tool and not meant to be onerous or intrusive to small business. Gaines pointed out, in response to Naffziger, that the form-based code for Main Street was a long two-year process and the backyard chicken issue was of short duration.
Mayor Chris Koos said that he was an early proponent of the voluntary adherence to form-based code. Koos said that some cities had taken the mandatory route, but that many cities had chosen the voluntary option when problems arose with existing businesses.