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City buys last land parcel for runway extension

Council also OKs variances for Pilot Travel Centers

The Morris City Council has approved the last land purchase needed for the future Morris Municipal Airport runway extension.

The settlement agreement approved by the council Monday was for about 70 acres north of the airport. The city agreed on $1.6 million for the land, said Alderman Julian Houston, Airport Committee chairman, after the meeting. The city has been working on getting the land for about two years.

“It’s been a long battle, but it’s finally over and we can look to the future,” he said.

The city plans to extend its north-south runway and taxiway to the north by 500 feet, making it 5,500 feet, to accommodate larger aircraft. The extension also includes widening the runway from 75 to 100 feet and overlaying it with more asphalt to accommodate heavier aircraft.

The hope is to get started on the project in the early part of 2013, said Houston. The tearing down of the old airport office building will be in the next three weeks.

The city was given a federal grant of $3.5 million for property acquisition. When purchasing property for the extension, the city is responsible for 5 percent, the state for 5 percent, and the FAA takes care of 90 percent of the cost.

The city has now spent about $2.95 million on land and has obtained about 80 acres.

The remaining parcel for which the city needs to approve a settlement is for air rights above Saratoga Cemetery, said Mayor Richard Kopczick after the meeting.

In other business, the council also approved variances for Pilot Travel Centers.

The truck stop will be more than 11,000 square feet and is to be located on Illinois 47, north of Interstate 80.

It will include fueling for both trucks and passenger vehicles, a Subway, food mart, video gambling, trucker’s lounge and showers.

A variance for a 90-foot sign was approved. The city’s municipal code allows for 40-foot signs. The approval is pending the FAA’s recommendation regarding the sign height, since the gas station is located close to the Morris Municipal Airport and the sign is in alignment with the airport runway. The company wanted a larger sign to be seen from I-80.

Pilot also asked for a green-space variance, which was approved. The city requires 40 feet of green space for Business-3 commercial property north of I-80. Pilot asked for it to be 20 feet due to a storm water drainage pond, turn around and parking issues, and to allow for it to be closer to Illinois 47.

The last variance granted for the project was for building material.

Pilot will be using “true stucco,” meaning it is not made with Styrofoam as some stucco is, but is a masonry product.

Alderman Randy Larson asked if allowing Pilot to use this would cause problems with the Morris McDonald’s, which had a building material situation.

In the summer of 2011, the Morris McDonald’s was being reconstructed and about a month before its opening it was discovered it was being built with unapproved materials. The building is constructed with masonry panels consisting of full-face brick exteriors, but not full-width brick, something the Development Review Committee requires when using brick.

The company said the error was a misreading of the city’s code.

The business and city compromised by agreeing the brick face would be covered with full brick from the foundation to the bottom of the windows and then a decorative cap added.

Kopczick told Larson the Pilot request was not the same because “true stucco” is constructed on site, not brought in on panels like McDonald’s tried to do.

The city’s code does not define the use of “true stucco,” so a variance was recommended. All of the pilot variances were approved unanimously with Aldermen Drew Muffler and Bill Martin being absent due to work.

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