There has been much discussion of “property rights” surrounding the [Morrison] City Council’s preservation initiatives. Some challenge the ordinance scheme on the basis that the new regulations impinge upon their ability to do what they want with their own real estate. Indeed, any regulatory scheme, whether it be a zoning ordinance or preservation overlay, diminishes one’s complete freedom to do anything one wants to do with one’s property.
Conversely, however, a lack of rules interferes with one’s property rights to an even greater degree. There can be no question that what significant changes one’s neighbor, present or an unknown person in the future, chooses to make to his or her adjoining or nearby property affects an owner’s “property rights.” In other words, to allow unfettered alterations in any neighborhood or on any streetscape can quickly diminish an owner’s right to the value in his or her property and, by extension, to the assets of the entire community.
The preservation initiative is not purely about historic preservation alone. Were that the case, the City Council could just have identified certain historic structures, overlaid some alteration principles on those buildings only and have been done with it, but the program is about much more than that. It is about maintaining the streetscape of the Lincolnhighway, the gateway and corridor to our town, uplifting the vitality of our retail business core and securing, if not increasing, the value of properties within the historic district and, hopefully, by extension, of those outside of it.
If the interest were only to preserve some old and beautiful buildings, the result would eventually be that we would have a checkerboard of the good, the bad and the ugly. In one’s mind’s eye, visualize a streetscape, like many deteriorating small towns you have seen, that is dotted with an occasional architectural beauty interspersed with garish neon lit billboards, parking lots and reader boards. First a 100 year old Victorian home, then a high volume joint, then a metal sided Morton building, then a classic gothic residence - and so on down the street. This would completely ruin the magnetism, ambiance and visual attractiveness of what we in Morrison have, send the message to potential new homeowners and businesses that we have no interest in who or what we are, and, even more importantly, devalue the worth of those that own the homes or businesses left standing. Those that remain become less desirable, become run down, lose market value and gradually, one by one, disappear. Once gone, they are lost forever. After awhile, Morrison becomes another nameless, faceless Midwestern town whose main drag looks like a cluttered mish mash of properties whose owners have lost a large part of their financial and emotional investment in them.
Some say the ordinance has been presented as being about historic preservation. Others say that it has been described as being, not about historic preservation, but about development. All are correct, because it is about both. Without the presence of the beautiful edifices within the historic district, there would be much less call for any regulations at all. On the other hand, property values, whether historic or just plain attractive, are diminished without that which surrounds and contributes to it. Sure, there are “non-conforming” properties within the district, but just like one tree, rather than a row of them along a city street, hardly makes a welcoming statement, a few old buildings here and there, rather than a continuum of contributing buildings, does not add value to an individual property owner’s rights. Conversely, it detracts from those very rights.
What about those who own or live in homes or businesses within the historic district? Are they not entitled to have their city government maintain, perhaps even enhance, the value of their properties and the quality of their lives? Put oneself in the position of a home or business owner who lives or works in a neighborhood of structures that add to the value of his or her property and is then invaded by an utterly out-of-place, unattractive edifice complete with a style that clashes and detracts, bright lights, increased traffic and an invitation to attract nuisances.
Some say the City’s actions have subjected them to a bunch of restrictions that interfere with their rights. Understanding the foregoing, it is even more possible that if the City did not act, that failure would have negatively affected those very property rights.
Finally, some opine that the ordinance is not sufficient enough in detail to notify owners of what is or is not permitted. No “law” can be written in such detail so as not to need interpretation. Facts drive conclusions, and each and every factual situation is different. The ordinance does adopt certain federal standards by reference; nevertheless, in response to citizens’ constructive input, the Morrison Historic Preservation Commission will be working on developing a set of guidelines that will, hopefully, more particularly illustrate the parameters of what is at play. Those guidelines will be available at City Hall and on the City’s web site, www.morrisonil.org.
Continuing regards to all,
Chair, Morrison Historic Preservation Commission
On Thursday, March 4, I had the dubious pleasure of attending the City of Savanna Building & Public Property Committee meeting. The part of the agenda in which I was and you should have been interested was Willett, Hofman & Associates, Inc. Agreement Proposal for Professional Services and Building Renovations to convert the newly purchased medical building into a new City Hall. The figure referenced in the paper was $512,000 (See “Renovation of Medical Building . . .”, March 3, 2010 issue of The Prairie Advocate). This figure, together with the $125,000 already paid for the building (and they only gained approximately 1200 sq. ft. of space) brings the total to approximately $637,000! I raised several questions, some of which weren’t answered to my satisfaction, some with half-truths, and some ignored. I was told that this is an emergency, top-priority project to provide more space for the City offices and personnel. This tells me, and it should tell you, that most (not all) of the City Council and a couple of City Officials are out of control. They want to spend this kind of money Savanna doesn’t have, on a project the city doesn’t need.
City Councilman Bill Robertson brought to my attention that there is a sewer line on Bowen St. ready to collapse. City officials have video tapes of this, so they are aware of the problem. This line drains 2/3 of Savanna. What happens if this line collapses completely? Savanna is probably the largest customer in Northern Illinois for the manufacturer of hot and cold patch mix. That’s all the street dept. is allowed to do with the streets. here are som streets in this town on which you shouldn’t drive. Is the city going to pay for front end alignments, flat tires, broken tie rods, etc. - I think not! There was a sewer treatment plant study done in 2008. It states “there are a number of short term recommendations that need to be addressed immediately to keep the facility in compliance with the permit. The estimated cost for these immediate improvements is $675,000. Due to the number of deficiencies of the existing facility, a facility upgrade will be necessary in the near future. The estimated cost of an upgrade of this magnitude is $3,700,000.”
I’m telling you that the city is putting band-aids on gaping wounds. Probably sooner than later one of these wounds, such as the sewer line on Bowen St., or the sewer treatment plant, is going to start hemorrhaging and they won’t have a band-aid large enough to stop it. If the sewer line on Bowen St. collapses, the city will have no choice but to go out and get a loan to repair it. They won’t have time to get grant money. Guess who will be responsible for repaying that loan plus interest? You guessed it, the taxpayers. Mayor Stebbins keeps saying, “You have to be careful when spending the taxpayer’s money.” When the city received grant money for a refurbished “boat ramp” (that was a mistake - it was meant to be for boat docks), was it sent back? No, it was used on the ramp and another $30,000 had to be added because the grant for $159,000 wasn’t enough. You go look at the ramp (we didn’t need in the first place) and see if you think it’s worth approximately $189,000. It doesn’t sound like he’s being too careful to me.
I hope my letters to the Editor are starting to wake up some of you Savanna taxpayers, because now we are in line to spend another $512,000. It’s inconceivable to me how anyone in the City Council can consider sacrificing the needs of an entire city for the benefit of a few who need more space. I agree they need more space, but not at the expense of the entire town. In all of the jobs I have had, you make do with what you are given. I worked in a cubicle designed for one person - there were three in it. I still managed to pull out half billion dollar quotes and sign half billion dollar contracts. I’m still alive and no worse for wear. You have to suck it up, Mr. Lindeman. If room is all they need, let them move into one of the vacant stores. We certainly have enough from which to choose. Why isn’t something being done to address this? Is it because someone on the City Council referred to the businessmen as lazy do-nothings? There is really an attractive one with chicken wire on the windows. I forgot, that’s on the west side of Main St. and it floods.
Yes, I was told flooding was another reason the Village Hall had to be moved. They didn’t get water in the building back in the flood of 1965. However, most of the rest of the buildings and residences on the west side of Main St. get water in their basements when it floods. I used to live on North Main, I know. If they are so worried about flooding, why don’t they do something about it? Mr. Lindeman further stated that “this building improvement is just a drop in the bucket compared to the total needs of the city.” I don’t know where he got his education, but you do the math. $512,000 would go a long way toward improving the streets in Savanna. $637,000 (if the building had not been purchased) would go a long way to taking care of the 3 immediate improvements needed in the sewer plant or repairing the collapsing sewer line on Bowen St. It may be a drop in the bucket to Mr. Lindeman, but it’s not to me, and I’ll bet not to you. Maybe he said this because it’s not his money he’s spending. He says that all of this is being taken care of by grant requests. If the city has to wait for grant monies, it may have to wait a long time, even if the Mayor hadn’t criticized the State and Federal Officials who award the grants. Bt then it may be too late.
Chief Moon asked why they would want to put an addition onto a hundred year old building. There are a lot of buildings in town older than 100 years and they seem to be doing OK. When your building gets to be 100 years old are you supposed to abandon it and go somewhere else? If that’s the case there would be a lot more empty buildings in town. He went on to say, “We should be able to pay for this project without raising one tax.” When I asked if he was telling me the taxes would not be raised, he changed what he said to “We’ll have to wait for the bids to come in.” He added, “It is simple: the police department needs more room.” I’m sorry, Chief Moon. It’s not that simple. What is simple is this town needs major repair a lot more than you need additional space. I have ALWAYS agreed with you that the police dept. needs more space, but not at the expense of those projects that will affect the entire city.
I can’t wait for the census to be completed. I’m sure everyone will be quite surprised at the new population figures the city limit signs will show. The city looses residences and businesses every year. This means the tax base goes down also, and unless you wake up and smell the coffee, your taxes will have to increase to pay for the problems this city obviously has. Nothing is being done to attract new business or new home owners to town, so there will be no other choice.
Room For All
On February 20th, the Northern IL Tea Party was launched at Stockholm Inn in Rockford with a “Tea Party Town Hall” featuring 14 great speakers. Over 225 people attended. Our first meeting at Sophia’s Restaurant in Roscoe Feb. 25th was filled to overflowing, and people were turned away.
Americans are frightened. Government is becoming monstrous in size, and completely unresponsive to the will of the people. Consider what we are dealing with – a president who will double the national debt (not the annual deficit) by 2012 and triple it by 2019; an Attorney General refusing to prosecute Black Panthers in Philadelphia, who menaced white voters on election day in 2008. Bartle Bull, a former civil rights lawyer and publisher of the left-wing Village Voice, calls the incident “the most blatant form of voter intimidation I’ve ever seen.” The president’s race doesn’t disturb me. His politics do.
What are we to think when the Democratic Congressional leadership, which took no input from the Republican minority, creates a fascistic healthcare “reform” package, then blames the minority party for failure to participate in the “healthcare debate?” What are we to think of a $787 billion dollar TARP package, designed to take “toxic assets” off the books of the banks, which fails to do that, but serves lavish bonuses to stock traders who created the emergency?
We intend to take America back. The next Northern IL Tea Party meeting will be held (one time only) at the Rockton Town Hall, 1315 N. Blackhawk, south of the UIC Clinic on the access road west of Route 2, on Thursday, March 18 at 6:30. 815-964-4588. N.IL.TeaParty@gmail.com Room for all.
Due to the unprecedented funding cuts in education at the State level, the Morrison School District is facing significant reductions in key programs for the coming year. The state grant-funded Morrison Early Learning Program (MELP), which serves our community’s at-risk preschool population, is one of the programs that will be forced to be reduced if the State follows through on the proposed funding cuts. Forty children now attend MELP, with a waiting list of at least fifteen more eligible children. These children qualify for the at-risk program based on environmental risk factors and scores on the developmental preschool screening held each spring. The MELP program could be cut in half next year, or eliminated altogether if the funding that is still owed to the district for this year is not paid or the funding for next year is cut. Too many of our community’s at-risk children are already not receiving the preschool education they deserve because of a lack of space in the MELP program. A group of concerned parents has come together to explore outside funding options for the program, but time is running out for the coming school year. From this exploration into funding options, the establishment of a Morrison Schools Foundation has emerged, and is currently in the preliminary stages of development. The goal of the Morrison Schools Foundation will be to support the Morrison School District in working toward the common goal of maintaining the highest quality of education for all students in the community and to provide funding not available through traditional local, state, and federal sources. With the short term goal of exploring options to fund MELP in the coming year, the Foundation’s long term vision is to eventually support programs such as MELP and so many other valuable programs throughout our school district. We want to ensure that our students, both now and in the future, will continue to receive the best education our community can deliver.
We invite anyone interested in becoming involved, wanting to learn more about the vision for the Foundation, or wanting to help with the immediate need of short term Pre-K funding for MELP, to attend a community meeting on Wednesday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m. in the SuperWash Training Center, 657 W. Lincolnway (behind the Red Apple). For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through the assistance of parents, teachers, businesses, alumni, and the school district community working together towards the common goal of high quality education, we believe that both our children and the community of Morrison will benefit from the rewards of success.
Thank you, Trent & Heather Bush Scott & Ona Allison Paul & Andrea Wakeman David & Rebecca Green
Milledgeville President Urges Census Support
As many of you have already heard, through various media sources, 2010 is the year of the census. This has a large impact upon our school district as well as all governmental bodies not only in the State of Illinois but throughout the nation. The federal government will disperse approximately 400 billion dollars to local schools and taxing bodies in part due to the census data. Some of the monies will help fund programs and grants for our schools and different local forms of government.
Each household may have already received or will shortly be receiving the census form. This form should be filled out with information that is pertinent to each household as of April 1, 2010. Please take ten minutes to fill out the form that will directly impact all of us and more importantly our children for the next ten years.
As soon as you receive the form please fill it out and mail it back to the federal government. Some families will perceive that some of the answers will tell the government more information than they want to reveal about themselves. The government, by law, will hold the information confidential for the next seventy years.
Please keep in mind that the census data will also determine boundaries for state and local legislative and congressional districts. Several persons in town have volunteered to help people fill out the form.
If anyone needs help filling out the census form please contact Village Hall at 225-7231. If you have any questions about the census please contact one of your governmental officials.
Milledgeville Village President
By Jim Sacia, State Representative 89th District
Humanewatch.org. It’s a website you must visit. Television ads depicting starving and abused animals are among the most heart-wrenching ads we see. We all want to dig a little deeper to help these starving creatures. After all, for a few dollars a month we can assure these animals’ safety – or can we? The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is responsible for these ads and their membership is in the millions.
Here’s a dose of reality for you - the Humane Society of the United States is not your local animal shelter. In fact, less than ½ of 1% of its $100 million budget gets into the hands of local pet shelters. You who read this are, like me, animal loving people. How does it feel to know that if you donate $ 200 to this alleged caring agency, $1.00 gets into the hands of local pet shelters? If it makes you feel anything other than mad I’d be shocked. These are the least animal loving people I have ever come up against. Sadly, they make fools out of you and me and their clever ads get deep into our pockets. It’s big business folks, and they know how to take care of their own at your expense.
This “animal rights group” (and I say that with great distain), socked away more than $2.5 million in donations from Americans into its own pension plan. The figure for 2008 is $2,532,167 to be exact. HSUS gave just $452, 371 to local pet shelters in 2008 out of a total budget of $99,664,400. Yes, the dog watchers need a watchdog. Again, go to humanewatch.org for a real eye-opener.
You’ve probably figured out that HSUS and I don’t like each other very much. If you are in any way involved in livestock production agriculture you need to be concerned. Organizations that have millions of dollars at their disposal, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are doing all they can to make vegans out of all of us. Cattle, sheep, hogs, poultry and rabbits are at the forefront of their attacks. My House Bill 4812 would reinstate horse slaughter in Illinois. These organizations and their minions are doing all they can to stop the bill. Here is a dose of reality - since horse slaughter was outlawed here in 2006, nearly 100,000 horses each year are now stuffed into trailers and shipped to Mexico to face, in many cases, a horrific end of life compared to what horses experienced at Cavel International in DeKalb, which was dealing with the issue in a most humane way. Sadly, HSUS and ASPCA turn on the spin and ignore the tragic reality that they have caused.
My heartfelt thanks to the “Chicago Tribune” and its reporter Angie Leventis Lourgos for an excellent, objective article on horse slaughter in the paper’s March 5th issue. Contrast that with “Chicago Sun-Times” columnist Michael Sneed who buys HSUS’s swill hook, line and sinker.
I strongly support and encourage your financial help to our local pet shelters like Friends Forever in Freeport. They get it.
As always, you can reach me, Sally or Barb at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at email@example.com. You can also visit my website at www.jimsacia.com. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.