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Thomas Clatterbuck

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The Jacksonville City Council has tabled a resolution endorsing adding the downtown area to the Register of Historic Places. Getting the district listed in the Register would allow some property owners access to tax credits. Because the official decision on the Register designation will likely be decided before the next meeting, tabling the discussion is a de facto “no” vote. The Council took no action on the Local Landmark District.

Public engagement from property owners was cited as the main reason the Council voted to table the resolution. Bob Bonjean was the most vocal critic of the proposed district. He was concerned about weakening the rights of property owners to modify their properties as they saw fit. Other owners felt they had not been property informed that the district was being created, and said they had only learned about it in the last few weeks.

It was a classic case of the future belonging to those who show up. Opponents of the district were present at both meetings, but no owners who supported the district came out. Even aldermen who were personally supportive of the district saw these as valid concerns and delayed the vote. However, the district may still be listed in the National Registry because that is decided by state and federal authorities. The local landmark district that had also been proposed is still being discussed.

Rising rents at the trailer parks

The Council also heard a presentation by several residents of the local trailer park communities. Ron Hoffstadt, Danny Davison, and Gary Barrow discussed how the lot rents at several local parks were being raised dramatically. New ownership of the parks has almost doubled the average rents. While unpopular with tenants, they appear to be within their rights to do.

However, the increased rents present a problem for the current residents. Although they are called “mobile homes,” they are mobile only relative to other buildings. Moving one is a serious undertaking. It can cost several thousand dollars to move a single trailer, and many homes are made up of two or more connected trailers. For the many residents who are on fixed incomes, relocation can be extremely difficult. They also fear that the higher rents will make selling their homes a challenge.

No matter the problems it cause for current residents, no one disputes the legal right of the new owners to raise their rents. The Council was sympathetic to the residents, but was unsure what, if anything, they could do to help. A meeting will be held tonight at the Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville at 6:30 to discuss the issue further.

You can watch the chamber session above, or the workshop session below:

Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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