The Vermillion City Council learned first hand Monday that a significant number of citizens are unhappy with the aldermen's recent decision not to extend Crawford Road and ultimately remove any notion of developing the north-south thoroughfare from the city's comprehensive plan.

Those citizens remained unhappy at the conclusion of the meeting. They were unable to sway the initial decision of the council, which voted two weeks ago to scrap plans for Crawford after hearing from an audience of over 50 people all opposed to further development of the street.

Aldermen learned from City Attorney James McCulloch that an affirmative vote would not only remove Crawford Road from the city's comprehensive plan. It would also remove several alternative transportation options for the eastern section of the city.

Council members who voted to remove Crawford from the city's plans are Jere Chapman, Roger Jeck, Mary Edelen, Kent Osborne and Mayor Dan Christopherson.

Nathan Adams, Kevin Annis and Jack Powell voted to oppose the resolution. Ray Hofman recused himself because of his employment as the county's zoning officer.

City council members were urged April 3 to keep the entire city in mind when planning surface transportation issues, not just the Southeast Ward, the home of Crawford Road and a good number of the street's opponents.

Former city alderman and former Vermillion planning commission member Leo Powell reminded council members that they were elected to represent all citizens.

"You were all elected to serve all the residents of Vermillion," he said, "not just the vocal minority. They elected you to represent the semi-silent majority, also, and we trusted you. I was really disappointed in the vote that came out of the last meeting."

Powell said the council's decision is already beginning to have a negative affect on Countryside Development, a housing project being built by Dave Hertz south of The Bluffs golf course along Burbank Road. The planning commission and the past city council, Powell said, platted three of Hertz's lots facing Crawford Road.

"Now that Crawford Road isn't coming, what is Mr. Hertz supposed to do with those lots?" Powell asked. He said that one of his co-workers who is in the process of moving into Vermillion, had considered building a house in Hertz's development. After the city council's recent decision, however, he decided

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to find housing elsewhere in the city.

"Whether that's a plus or a minus, I know it's a negative for Mr. Hertz," Powell said.

"I look at the Crawford Road improvement project as just another street improvement project," said Vermillion resident Paul Hasse. "You have always had people come up here with long faces and crocodile tears opposing it, saying the world will stop turning it if you approve this project."

Hasse reminded the aldermen that people who oppose the street all have selfish interests.

"You people (on the council) are invested with the responsibility of planning for the whole community, not just a select group," he said.

Hasse asked the aldermen, and specifically Jere Chapman, who represents the Southeast Ward, to list their credentials for city planning.

"I have none, Paul," Chapman said. "I try to listen to the citizens."

"You have a planning commission, you have professionals, and you have a staff that all state that this project is good for the overall growth and traffic pattern in Vermillion," Hasse said. "I don't see how you can go against it ? you are tinkering with something that professionals say we should have."

Lisa Ketcham, executive director of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company, praised aldermen for providing opportunities for citizens to voice their opinions, whether they be for or against the Crawford Road link.

She also reminded the city leaders that they must consider many objective and subjective factors in their decision-making processes.

The board of directors of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company, she said, doesn't wish to debate the pros and cons of Crawford Road or the alternatives. "We would defer to the recommendations of the professionals, including the staff, engineers, transportation specialists, planners, and developers who we entrust for their expertise in these areas," Ketcham said, reading from a prepared statement. "We are also not writing this to take sides regarding the public sentiment, either residential or commercial, that surrounds this issue that must be considered."

What's of utmost importance, she said, is that the Vermillion community work together to ensure that the results of local government's decisions are in the best interests of the the majority of citizens today and in the future.

"In addition, in our roles as economic developers, we need to have a level of confidence and reassurance that what has been identified in plans relating to our future growth and development can be relied on and communicated to people whom we work with on a daily basis who are considering an investment in our community," Ketcham said. "While we all realize that plans need to be flexible enough to adapt to changing times and needs, we must work together to ensure that our strategic plans do not become so fluid that they are easily modified or influenced at the point in which formal steps are taken to implement them."

Ketcham, speaking for the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company's board of directors, urged the council to reconsider its decision to remove Crawford Road from the city's comprehensive plan.

"Until recently, the extension of Crawford Road was considered by many to be a viable and recommended alternative to connect upper and lower Vermillion in the southeast region of our city," she said. "Perhaps more consideration is needed before it is completely eliminated as a possibility, and perhaps if you decide to reconsider your action, you might find additional validation and comfort as leaders that your decision indeed represents the majority views of the citizens, preserves the integrity of the planning process and truly represents the best interests for the future of our community."

Hertz, operator of Midwest Homes and developer of the Countryside Development south of The Bluffs golf course, noted that the city council had just admitted that they don't have expertise in the area of street and residential planning.

"I don't know every aspect about building a house, so I rely on the plumbers to do a good job of plumbing," he said. "I rely on the electricians to do a good job of wiring, and I think the city council has to act as general contractors for the city.

"They have to rely on the professionals that do that job, and go with the recommendations of those professionals," Hertz said.

He also presented a power point presentation showing Crawford Road between Cherry and Main streets without traffic at 3 p.m. At the same time, University Road, according to Hertz's photos, was nearly congested with cars, pickups and school buses.

Hertz also showed the city council photos he had taken of the wooded ravine where the Crawford Road link, if approved, likely would be located.

"The opposition made it sound like this would be running through their back yards," he said. "I don't see any sandboxes and I don't see any swing sets," he said. "It's a long ways to anyone's back yard ? council members really should take a walk up and down this (ravine) to see how big of an impact this is going to have. If people who live along here are standing in their back yards, most of them aren't even going to see the street." Margaret Crew, a long time member of the Vermillion Planning Commission, urged aldermen to maintain Crawford Road in the city's comprehensive plan.

"I think the comments on the geography, the economy of what has already been done in the area, the safety issue and further development for the future � please re-think your position and maintain the road in your planning," she said.

Former Mayor Roger Kozak reminded aldermen that time and again, the Vermillion City Council has had to tackle tough issues, ranging from a new softball complex, East Main Street improvements, a new fire hall, Chestnut Street and a plans for a new city hall.

"Out of all of it, the city has always come to rest with a decision that was reflective of what was going to be best for the city then and into the future," he said.

Taking affirmative action on these issues was challenging and tough, Kozak said. "But yet I believe the council, after their deliberations, said this is the best decision. Crawford Road is no different. What I'm asking you to do is look at the facts, separate it from the fiction, and look at your community. Make it the best community it can be."

Bob Husby, 208 Crawford Road, admitted that he stands a chance of being alienated by many of his neighbors because he doesn't oppose connecting Crawford to Burbank Road.

"As far as safety issues, I offer to have anyone come up on University Avenue in the morning or the afternoon and take a look at that street when we have youth trying to go to or from school," he said.

The opponents of Crawford Road, he said, have begun a short-term, emotional response by the citizens who own property in the area.

"The council needs to avoid the emotional impact of this," Husby said, "and they need to look at it from the city planning side of things and the ? implications that previous planning commissions have made that this road is going to be connected.

"It's a very logical thing for all of the traffic that's going for all of the traffic that is going to be coming from the south and east side of the town."

He added that Hertz has acted in a very business-like manner, communicating on a high-level with the city planners as he develops his housing project.

"I think the city has pulled the rug out from under him," Husby said, "and that does not do good for promoting activity for getting this city to grow."

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