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Pekin City Council rejects community gym site plan on a contentious 3-3 split

Pekin City Hall
Tim Shelley
Pekin City Hall

The Pekin City Council has rejected a site plan for a new 13,000-square-foot downtown community gymnasium.

Developer Randy Price wanted to discharge storm water runoff from his property into the city's combination sewer system, rather than installing an underground retention vault. Price said the latter option would be a showstopper.

"We're talking over a million plus to do it," he told the council Monday. "And to me, I don't want to spend a million dollars just to put a tank in the ground."

The city of Pekin sold Price the land on Court Street last year. Tazewell County also had put in an offer on the parcel that was wanted for part of the county's planned Justice Center expansion that also involves the controversial demolition of two historic buildings on Capitol Street.

There had previously been discussions of the city doing a land swap with Price to regain ownership of the property along Court Street. That would potentially have cleared the way for the county to acquire the parcel.

The city's Zoning Board of Appeals recommended approval of the site plan even without the storm water detention tank, but city engineer Josie Esker cautioned the council against allowing it without a code change.

"I think that's probably a bad precedent. But we can we can talk about that later depending on how this goes," she said.

The vote was 3-3, with Mayor Mary Burress, John Abel, and Karen Hohimer voting against the project. Councilwoman Becky Cloyd initially abstained because she is employed by Price's company EnviroSafe, but later tried to change her vote when the site plan failed to pass.

A terse exchange ensued after the mayor declared Cloyd out of order. The mayor also admonished Cloyd not to cuss after she said the vote had "pissed her off." Cloyd countered that it wasn't a swear word. She later elaborated.

"With a threat of a felony for voting, which I was told right before the meeting, that I could get a felony for voting for a gymnasium for our kids. Come on," she said. "There's something more. That's all I'll say on that. Which is why I said the word I said."

Cloyd didn't specify who had allegedly threatened her with a felony charge if she cast a vote on the motion.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.