Doing No Further Harm?

On Tuesday council will workshop an ordinance to amend the zoning of two manufacturing parcels at 715-719 Rogers Street from M-1 (Light Manufacturing) to DT (Downtown Transition), an ordinance for a Final Planned Development with a variance to construct 16 townhouses, a Plat of Subdivision resolution that will subdivide the two separate parcels into 17 individual parcels, and a Special Use Ordinance for dwellings.

A variance is required to allow steps greater than four feet in height to extend into the required front yard. A Special Use is required to develop townhouses exceeding one unit per 4,000 square feet of land area. Council, in particular Mayor Sandack and Commissioner Tully, have opined often how Special Uses would be scrutinized with the residents welfare and protection in mind, that we could rest easy because Special Uses require specific council approval.

Well; here we are, and here it is, so what will happen?

While it’s a nice looking development by most standards, it misses some, among them one that the council and staff have been urged to observe over and over again:

“Do no further harm.”

1501 Ogden Partners, LLC, at1501 Ogden Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515 are listed as the owners. Scott Krafthefer, of 414 Plaza Drive, #302, Westmont, IL 60559 is listed as the owner, although he is also a DG resident. His previous project was as Oakwood Development, building two rather nice attached homes at the SE corner of Rogers and Washington, at the 4-way stop sign just north of the tracks. 2 lots, 2 attached houses, with plenty of green space. Local builder, did a good job. This time 2 lots, 16 attached homes, and a different feel. A lot different feel.

Rezoning. In a recent study commissioned by the Village itself, three locations were identified within the Village that have the potential to be rezoned to residential districts. See page 5 of the supporting documents for active a also on the agenda tonight. The sites are located along the railroad tracks and could provide opportunities for high density attainable housing. While this same document appears to support DT transitional zoning as the petitioners requested, there is no downtown here to be transitioned from, it is far away from here.

The Housing Committee determined there is no need for more attainable housing, and the proposed development is similar to the three story luxury town homes Rosol built west of the library between Curtiss and Gilbert.

The area to the north is all single family homes. There is an apartment building across the street, and more homes to the west on Rogers. The tracks are behind the proposed development to the south. DT zoning is jumping a clean, clear demarcation at Prospect, and allows a continuation of DT zoning east up Prospect. This would be extending a potential downtown area into a residential neighborhood, replacing warehousing, storage, and light manufacturing, with high density mixed use, with all the attendant traffic, parking needs, extra road wear, and generally more intensive use.

Staff believes the proposed rezoning density is consistent with the intent of the Future Land Use Plan and will compliment the existing residential development to the north and west. That’s a 21.6 unit per acre density across the street from a residential area with a 4 unit per acre density. Staff’s belief is more faith, as there is an absence of facts to back that belief up with. This area will probably be zoned DT instead of a more appropriate R-5A townhome zoning, or R-6, DG’s highest density multi-family zoning. Both R zonings allow for high density housing, but not as high as the developer wants.

Stormwater retention. As a high density residential development, there is not much permeable area to the project, nowhere near enough to compensate for water run-off, hence an engineer proposed, yet highly impractical system, of 3’ tubes for holding runoff . There are no clean out traps specified for this system, it is buried underneath parking, and the system as designed does not allow for proper jetting to clear what is a maze of underground 3’ pipes.

The Assistant Director of Public Works has made numerous presentations over the past few years to council and the public on the problem with pipes, mainly that they function poorly as effective water retention or detention due to their tendency to quickly fill up with solids and debris. Note that the apartment building across the street, when it added water retention features to the entire front and side yard used properly designed open retention areas. Further, this clog prone maze will be turned over to the city, making it our problem in the future. Another example of developers moving costs into the future where it isn’t on their dime.

The plan clearly shows that all stormwater run-off will immediately exit into the storm sewers via a by-pass on the left (west) side, also engineered into the system, with no retention or mitigation. This has never been, and should never be, an allowable feature of a large planned development.

The developer has talked about the possibility of leasing or purchasing land from the railroad for water retention. If this has not been done to date, it should not be in these documents, as it is speculation, not a plan. Site inspection will show there is a slope from the tracks to the property line without a suitable area for water retention. Council may wish to table the project until a date when this possibility has become certainty.

A rational council that is truly looking out for the best interests of the village will ask the developer to come back with a plan showing four fewer units, so that an open detention area, a water garden type feature, can be engineered properly into the development. As the staff and council have asked residents to shoulder the fiscal responsibility for poor past development decision making regarding handling of stormwater , council should not immediately begin adding to the Stormwater problem all over again, and instead require an open surface retention area that can be properly and easily maintained, and can be populated and bordered with water absorptive plantings. “Do no further harm” should be more than just words, they should be actions.

Landscape design. The village planted monoculture rows of elms that fell to unforeseen disease in the 50’s and early 60’s. Then planners made the same mistake, replacing them with ash trees that will soon also die due to unforeseen disease and pestilence. our Village Forester has said it will be policy moving forward to use a variety of interspersed species to ensure there a re no long rows of die-offs in the future due to a single factor effecting a single species. That is responsible.

This development calls for 6 maple in a row, and 5 gumtree in a row, continuing a bad habit. A more responsible forward looking design would plant a variety of trees instead, minimizing the possibility of massive future loss.

Timetable. Lastly, there is no completion date for the project. It is irresponsible for council to give open ended permission to build a singular development such as this. Until the developer can agree to a completion date, approval should wait.

Overall, this can be a desirable addition to an area in need of residential redevelopment if it is done with the best interests of the neighborhood and village taken into account. By addressing the inadequacies, council can set a strong, protective, and positive precedent for future development in the Village.

We can all avoid a problem in the making, and do no further harm.

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4 Responses to “Doing No Further Harm?”

  1. John Schofield Says:

    Regarding the stormwater engineering, I wonder why the Village is not implementing shared under-street stormwater storage like the installation under Florence for Luxury Motors. That way the developer would pay the full cost but the public would get some benefit. Is this property not located in a TIF district?

  2. markthoman Says:

    The cistern-type storage there cost taxpayers, was budgeted at, $500,000. To assume DG would foot that type of bill for every investment…don’t go giving them ideas!

    An open water garden type retention area is simpler; no pumps, power, or clean outs needed, and it can be modified as needed to adjust it’s effectiveness.

    This development is not located within the CBD TIF District.

  3. Ted Says:

    It’ll pass. Who do you think’ll vote aginst developers on council except maybe Waldack? First Acadia (notice the wood 3rd building), then Forest Avenue, then the Reporter Townhomes, now this. And throw in Station Crossing, and across from the blue bank on Main. Council never says no to developers. Never.
    Taxpayers will pay through the nose for stormwater fixes so developers don’t have to pay a thing. Cozy.

  4. Martin Tully Says:

    Ted:

    While I understand that your assertion, “Council never says no to developers. Never,” is made for dramatic effect, I must beg to differ, and the record over the past eight years readily bears me out on this. If you like, I can cite you numerous examples of where proposed developments were either rejected outright or narrowly passed over a split vote. I can refer you to still more examples of where a development was only approved after significant changes were directed to be made to the plan. Other projects never even made it to a vote because the developer could see that their proposal would not be warmly-received. In short, if there is a so-called “rubber stamp” at Village Hall, I have yet to find it. (Same goes for the mythical “smoke-filled back room.”)

    Unofficially yours,

    P.S. — Mark, thanks for your email. I’ll be back to you shortly.


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