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Village Vision News

2011 a year of changes, construction, controversy

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A face lift to Forsyth’s entry signs in early 2011 foreshadowed a year of changes within the Village.

A litany of news stories based on administrative innovations mixed with controversial issues soon replaced news stories such as the Hickory Point Mall’s record occupancy of leased spaces and the sixth annual Great Forsyth Regional Chili & Salsa Cookoff.

Approval of a draft budget for the 2011-12 year culminated with plans to spend $1.3 million on capital improvements geared toward public works projects, the parks and the library. Trustees weighed project expenditures on immediate Village needs. Road improvements were completed for Christopher Drive, Spyglass Court, Spyglass Boulevard and Schroll Court. A storm sewer was constructed on Elwood/Ruehl streets, and the Shadow Ridge Estates subdivision water main extension project began. The Village Hall parking lot was resurfaced while Village Hall itself received a “mini-remodel” to make better use of existing space. Mixed in with these projects were lighting improvements to two ball diamonds and the purchase of library materials.

The dialogue continued between the county and the Village concerning unresolved storm drainage problems on Forsyth’s northern edge associated with the future multi-million dollar plan to reconstruct County Highway 20. A completed project development report highlighted one segment of the reconstruction that most affects Forsyth residents. The report is under a review by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Administrative attention turned to improving utility billing and updating the Village’s electronic presence with improvements to the Forsyth website and creation of a Facebook page. Ongoing discussions were resolved with a plan for improving the summer recreation program. Options to revamp or eliminate seven volunteer committees resulted in sweeping changes; six committees were disbanded with only the Library Advisory Committee remaining. Further streamlining combined the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission to create a new Planning and Zoning Commission.

Controversy visited the Village on two legal fronts with the January announcement the Village would become a plaintiff in litigation to resolve a library taxation issue involving a segment of Forsyth property owners who must pay tax bills in support of Warrensburg’s Barclay Library. In the second case, a tax dispute over the building of a grade school in Forsyth with sales tax revenues and an unsigned intergovernmental agreement between the Village and the school district for the repayment of the funding embroiled both bodies in controversy. Further disagreements were aired over the intent of the 2007 referendum sanctioning the one-half of one percent sales tax increase. This issue surfaced late in the year when the school district revealed plans for a future middle school to be built in Forsyth on land the school district proposed to purchase from the Village.

The Village turned to independent counsel to study the options and legal ramifications of the unsigned intergovernmental agreement before deciding not to pursue repayment of up to $25 million in sales tax revenues. Additionally, trustees voted to rescind the sales tax increase upon the district’s pay off of the school bonds, and further, to seek a commitment from the school board to make good faith efforts towards the early retirement of the construction bonds; until such time as this commitment is made, discussions pertaining to financing future land purchases by the district are suspended.

Amid the changes and controversies, the Village welcomed 121 new residents and issued 90 building permits through November. Eleven of the permits were for new homes with the balance for remodels or additions.

New businesses opening in Forsyth included Waite’s Dry Cleaners, Taj of India restaurant, Aspen Dental, Kare 4 Kids Pediatric Care at St. Mary’s Health Center, Herzog Quality Optical, Roots Hair Salon, Solar Tan, Apples & Pears Consignment Shop and Area 51 Salon. McDonald’s owners unveiled plans to raze the building and rebuild beginning in spring 2012.

Changes were evident at Village Hall during the year. A lunchtime closing was introduced. The Macon County Sheriff’s Office relocated from Hickory Point Mall to Village Hall. Deputies will continue 24/7 protection for Village residents following a signed four-year contract with a negotiated 12 percent increase.

Village ordinances came under closer scrutiny in 2011 as a variety of problems and requests surfaced. Among the notables were the adoption of the 2008 Smoke-Free Illinois Act which pertains to smoking at ball diamonds and the addition of a section of the Village’s nuisance ordinance to include a section on public nuisance noise.

Special use permit requests increased, and trustees turned to a professional consultant to help develop a comprehensive long-range plan, a review of all Village development and zoning ordinances, and the preparation of a unified development ordinance. The new document will focus on residential planning, growth and commercial planning with clearer guidelines than currently exist.

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