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Debate continues over Elburn Station

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 4:51 p.m. CDT

ELBURN – A vigorous, in-depth discussion about the plans for the Elburn Station project began Monday, when village leaders aimed to compile a list of concerns while they seek to find a consensus that would move the development forward.

The most significant issue is the amount of multiunit rental properties, and officials appeared to favor spelling out limits that would address how many such rental units could be built. Also, there was discussion about not allowing a new phase of building to occur until the previous one was 95 percent complete. Discussion is expected to continue at next week’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

It’s the first step in the process since October, when instead of voting on the plan, the board voted, 4-3, to table the discussion of the topic. Board member Bill Grabarek said there were too many concerns over the density of the proposed development by ShoDeen, which would bring 2,200 homes – including more than 1,300 apartments and condominiums – to the village.

Any list of concerns the village developed would need input from ShoDeen. There is urgency because village leaders are concerned about losing federal funding for a project that would extend Anderson Road and pay for a bridge to cross Union Pacific tracks. That land is owned by ShoDeen, which is unlikely to sell the land needed for the project without an agreement on Elburn Station. Also, the next round of municipal elections will be in April. One board member, Jerry Schmidt, is not running for re-election.

At the October meeting, Grabarek brought numbers that suggested adding rental units would shift Elburn from being a Chicago suburb with one of the lowest such percentage of units to one of the highest. He said he was concerned that the plan had called for condominiums, but ShoDeen could cite difficult economic conditions and opt for high-density apartments instead.

The board members who voted with Grabarek to table the issue were insistent that the village do what it can to protect itself from a situation that occurred with the recent Blackberry Creek development, in which work is incomplete. Grabarek has called Blackberry Creek a failed development.

Village President Dave Anderson stressed that no building of new homes would be done until the bridge was complete.

“That’s two years,” Anderson said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Grabarek said when building does occur, he wants protection that the percentage of apartments will not grow higher than a number that can be agreed on by all. He said he is not against rental units, “but we’re talking about a huge block, equivalent to Chicago, easily.”

Ethan Hastert, the board member who pushed for the subject to be brought up again, said Elburn “does stand to lose a lot if we don’t act on this.” He said leaders should focus on getting the best possible deal from the developer.

Two residents spoke on the issue during public comment. Fred Houdek, who has spoke out in favor of the issue before, did so again, telling those assembled that he believes a “silent majority” of Elburn residents wants the development to get done. Another resident, Dave Bourbon, urged the village to approach the plan as a business and urged leaders to consider their vision, their strategy, their tactics and a mechanism for an annual review.

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