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Reduce fees for Orchard Road apartments? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Reduce fees for Orchard Road apartments?
Oswego Village Board wants more information on project's potential impact

by John Etheredge


Oswego Village Board members unanimously agreed this past week they want more information before they consider reducing the impact fees the village would charge the developer of a proposed 906 unit apartment complex.

The apartment complex is proposed for construction on a portion of a 68 acre parcel located immediately west of Orchard Road and north of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks.

In addition to the apartments, the landowner, Don Morris, has submitted a concept plan for the property to the village which calls for a section of the property along Orchard Road, north of the railroad overpass to be zoned for limited manufacturing use. An additional 10 acres adjoining the railroad tracks and opposite the village's Metra Park-n-Ride facility would be donated to the village for future development of a full-fledged Metra station and additional parking.

But in exchange for the land donation, Morris, through his attorney, Richard Guerard, has asked the board to consider reducing the village's impact fees on the project from just over $16,000 per unit to a to-be-negotiated figure that would be less than $10,000 per unit.

In a Nov. 4 letter to Steve Jones, village administrator, Guerard noted that his client has yet to secure a buyer/developer for the property.

"The property continues to be listed for sale, but with village fees per unit significantly higher than land price per unit, the owner has not been able to generate any interest from other developers...they have stepped away," Guerard wrote, adding, "We feel that if the fees can be below $10,000 developers will gain their interest, and the village can secure the train station land and the future benefits it could bring."

But during a committee meeting Dec. 3, board members agreed they need more information concerning the impact that a fee reduction would have on the village.

One local governmental agency, the Oswego School District Board, voted unanimously Sept. 23 to send a letter to the village urging officials to assess full fees on the school district's behalf in the event the apartment complex is eventually approved.

Gail Johnson, a village board member, noted the village is not considering reducing the fees it would collect from the project for the school district. Instead, up for discussion is whether the village will negotiate an agreement that would lower the fees the village would receive, she said.

"I think we have to go forward looking at all the facts. I want to see if we reduce this fee what impact it is to us in five years, 10 years down the road, as best we can guesstimate," Johnson said, adding, "I know there are no guarantees, but I have to see that before we enter into a negotiation."

Residents voice
several concerns

Earlier during the committee meeting, board members heard from six village residents who expressed opposition to the apartment proposal and the requested fee reduction.

Sam Haldiman, a former village and Kendall County Board member, told the board he has several concerns about the fee reduction request.

"I don't see any reason for a fee reduction to occur for this project. It has no extenuating benefits other than the 15 acres (that would be donated to the village) and if you want 15 acres, buy it. It will cost less than the $6 million (in total fee reductions) they are asking for," Haldiman said.

He added that he is also concerned that the village has "no experience" in dealing with a 900-plus unit apartment complex. Haldiman noted the proposed apartment complex is roughly triple in size to the largest current apartment complex now in the village.

"906 apartments on that site with no major road access is just a recipe for disaster," Haldiman said, adding, "There is only one right in, right out (to the site) so traffic is going to be a significant problem. There would be 906 apartment units with 1,706 residents by the developers' own estimates. Traffic is going to be a significant problem for access there."

Haldiman also commended the school district board for their opposition to any decrease in the school district's fee.

"The school district should not be waiving any fees," he said.

Maureen Sanchez, also a village resident, told board members the apartment complex would negatively impact all the existing nearby subdivisions and Fox Chase Elementary School in the Fox Chase Subdivision.

"It will impact the entire school district," Sanchez continued, adding, "I don't understand why some of the mistakes that have been made in the past keep getting repeated. I guess the reason I'm so frustrated is those choices to give people sweet deals made it so Oswego got built so fast ... the mistakes have to stop happening and it's up to you guys to make the good choices."

Sanchez predicted the board will be remembered for how they handle the fee reduction request.

"It's going to be on you guys for eternity when they look back on Oswego's history," she said.

Another resident, Greg Houk, told the board during his years of working as a teacher in Naperville he saw first-hand how apartment complexes "became issues" for that community.

Houk said there was one apartment complex in Naperville that became especially problematical about 18 to 20 years after it was built and the ownership changed.

"The issues started to come," he said, "It was so bad they had to put a police office inside the complex. That's a given. So, while you may all be well intended, be careful what you bring to Oswego because your kids are going to pay the price."

Responding to the residents' comments, Johnson said, she was "deeply troubled" by what she described as veiled comments made by some residents concerning the potential negative impact of apartments and renters.

She explained, "I have a brother who is 50 years-old who had a career in print advertising and he now has to rent because things happened (in his industry)."

Johnson told the residents, "Many of the homes in your areas have gone under and those people who lived there are now renting. Being poor is not a crime. When most of the subdivisions that almost everyone in this room lives in came in (for approval) we heard the same arguments ... everyone wanted the door closed behind them. That's how people felt. So I have to tell you I am deeply troubled by the veiled comments."

Board member Terry Michels said he supports the village's continuing effort to secure a Metra station, but is trying to be a realist about it given the funding issues for the project confronting both the village and Metra.

He said if the village were to approve the rezoning and accept the land donation for the station site the land will become a "maintenance headache for us because nothing is going to be on it at this point."

He predicted the wait for a Metra station will continue "for years."

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