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Our View: Communication goes long way in development decisions

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 4:09 p.m. CDT

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The process that led to the approval of the Lexington Club housing development in St. Charles ended up confusing some of those involved in the debate, and it left some residents believing that their voices weren’t heard.

There were significant changes in direction from members of the St. Charles City Council, and they took place without explanation for those who showed up to the meeting Monday. And one resident who wanted to give public comment at that meeting felt shut out. That is not a victory for the city.

Lexington Club is planned for the former Applied Composites site. The property is bordered by State and Dean streets to the south, the Chicago and N.W. Railroad to the north, Fifth Street to the east and 12th Street to the west.

Officials in May 2012 appeared to strongly support the project plan, with six voting to approve it, in the Planning and Development Committee. Then, on Dec. 10, there was an indication that the plan was headed for rejection when the committee voted against the tax increment financing funds, with only two members voting for it. Less than a month later, on Monday, two votes changed – from council members Jim Martin and Jon Monken – leading to a split decision, with Mayor Don DeWitte casting the deciding vote that gave the go-ahead to both the plans and the TIF.

And at that meeting, resident Brian LaVolpe said he was attempting to make his way to a podium to give public comment, but he didn’t make it in time before DeWitte adjourned the meeting.

LaVolpe noted he helped gather 400 signatures from those against the project. A significant number of people attended the last meeting. It’s obvious there was a great deal of public interest in the project.

So the residents who opposed the plan didn’t get an explanation of why it went through. That gave credence to their contention that their pleas went on deaf ears. And while we appreciate the eventual comments from Martin and Monken in a story that ran Thursday in the Kane County Chronicle, they also should have been made to those who were at the meeting. When there is tension and controversy, such efforts go a long way.

That’s not to say that every project that draws a vocal opposition should be voted down. If that were the case, nothing ever would be built. It’s predictable that such a development would draw opposition. But when pushing a plan through, a city’s leaders owe residents a reason. And if the opponents want to speak, the city’s leader should make sure the citizens have had the opportunity – and the citizens should also make sure that they speak up in time. It is, after all, their city.

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