The St. Charles Planning and Development Committee is entitled to vote whichever way it sees fit on development projects that come its way.
But regardless of the decisions it makes, clear communication throughout the process is critical, and it appears there is room for improvement on that front.
Henry Stillwell, the attorney representing the proposed Lexington Club development for the west side of St. Charles, was incensed with the St. Charles Planning and Development Committee in comments last week after the committee voted down a TIF proposal that was a critical component of making the housing development work.
The vote – which was a recommendation to the City Council – took Lexington Club developers off guard, Stillwell said, in the aftermath of earlier, encouraging feedback from the city, and months of back-and-forth with city officials as the plan was refined.
When it came to decision time earlier this month, though, the committee nixed the TIF incentives that would have helped mitigate cleanup costs needed to build on the site, and the development now is stalled.
At the same Dec. 10 meeting at which the Lexington Club’s TIF hopes were dashed, plans from JCF Real Estate that called for 231 apartment units for the city’s Corporate Reserve development also were voted down, unanimously by the commission. That area on the city’s far west side is currently zoned for offices.
Fairly or not, the city is opening itself up to the perception that it has an unfriendly posture toward development, particularly when residential projects are on the table.
St. Charles Mayor Don DeWitte noted before this month’s votes against the two development plans, the Town Centre, a substantial, mixed-use development slated for the old St. Charles Mall site, was denied in 2010.
Council members seemed to give significant weight to complaints about the projects from a vocal group of neighbors near the proposed sites. Taking residents’ concerns into account is the responsibility of city officials, but so is leveling with developers so that a lot of time, effort and expense does not go for naught.
St. Charles city officials should be increasingly mindful when it comes to striking that balance. Developers also need to realize that a development is not set in stone just because it has been discussed at length.