Jeff Forbes

Jeff Forbes, real estate broker & son of residents, passes out photos of cars stacked 20-25 deep on Ash Avenue at the Decatur Plan Commission meeting last September.

What exactly is the plan?

Aldi wants to close its store on Pershing Road and build a new store at the intersection of West Ash Avenue and U.S. Business 51. The new store would be about 3,000 square feet larger, with a different design and look than the current store. The owners of five houses and a vacant lot in the area have all agreed to sell to Aldi, provided that the area is rezoned to allow the development to take place.

What is the problem?

The new store would be across U.S. Business 51 from a heavily commercial area that includes Walmart, Walgreens and a variety of restaurants. The site itself, however, is located in a residential area, and neighbors don't want it there. The Decatur City Council would have to agree to rezone the site to allow it to be developed as a grocery store.

The Decatur Plan Commission voted 5-2 Thursday to recommend to the council that the rezoning occur. The commission's decision is only a recommendation. The council has the final say in the matter, regardless of how the vote had gone.

Why don't the neighbors want Aldi there?

They have a number of concerns, the chief of which seems to be increased traffic along West Ash Avenue and West Oak Lane. Cars would enter and exit the Aldi from West Ash, where a left turn lane would be added. Neighbors say the street is already dangerous because of a high volume of vehicles, some traveling at high speeds; also, they say cars already stack up at the intersection with U.S. Business 51, sometimes making it impossible to get out of their driveways.

There are also concerns about declining property values, changing the character of the neighborhood and issues with drainage and lighting of the store.

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Why doesn't Aldi just build somewhere else?

The site is desirable because of its very high traffic count and visibility, said Mike Rosch, Aldi's director of real estate. The company wants to locate on U.S. Business 51 somehwere on the north side of town, between Target and Menard's. That rules out many of the locations suggested by residents, including other vacant buildings along Pershing Road and the empty land behind Walmart on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Forsyth officials have expressed interest, according to developers' attorney Ed Flynn. If the new Aldi were located there, the city would lose out on all of that store's sales tax revenue at a time when municipal budgets have been stretched thin for years.

How is the city involved?

The city is not offering Aldi any incentives to develop the site. This is not, as was suggested by one of the speakers at the commission meeting, a case of eminent domain. City staff did make a recommendation to the commission and the council that the rezoning be approved, with some conditions. You can read the city's full analysis here.

What's next?

The Decatur City Council will hear the issue as soon as Sept. 21, though the vote could be later than that. Expect a big crowd, as chambers were packed with residents for the Plan Commission meeting.

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Regional Editor

Regional editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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