BATAVIA – The Campana project is headed for a showdown Feb. 5.
After months of contentious public hearings, the Batavia City Council is expected to vote on the controversial proposal to put 80 apartment units into the landmark building at 901 N. Batavia Ave. Or it may not, if Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group decides to withdraw its petition, recognizing that it does not have the supermajority of council votes needed for approval.
“Either we ask for a vote or we pull the petition,” Evergreen Director of Development David Block said.
To gain approval, the proposal needs 10 votes – a two-thirds majority – from the 14 aldermen.
The supermajority is required because of a legal protest filed by Robert Byrnes of Batavia Avenue Properties located at 1950 and 2000 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva. The office park shares a property line along the north and northwest sides of the Campana site, which sits at the northwest corner of Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway.
All the aldermen have made their positions clear. Nine are in favor of the project and five are opposed, leaving Evergreen one vote short.
“It’s possible we’re going to pull the petition,” Block said. “We don’t feel we’re in a great position with this vote, with what we’ve seen from the council.”
The proposal has been hanging in limbo since last November, after Byrnes filed his protest triggering the supermajority vote requirement.
Block presented aldermen with concept plans for major revisions to the project, but it quickly became apparent that these were not going to gain additional votes in favor.
Since then, Evergreen has not filed any new plans, and the proposal that was approved by two city commissions and the council’s Committee of the Whole remains before the city, according to Batavia Community Development Director Scott Buening.
“I think we’re going to see this come to a head,” Buening said.
Block confirmed that he has not filed any new plans, and said that Evergreen wants a resolution.
“We need to make a business decision,” Block said, noting that Evergreen has invested a large sum of money – how much he refused to say – into the project.
“In principle, we’d like to keep fighting,” Block said. “A win for the opposition is a loss for the broader community.”
Evergreen’s proposal includes use of historic tax credits to help finance renovation of the 1936 factory building in a $30 million project and low-income tax credits to subsidize the rents for tenants in 64 of the units.
The proposal polarized residents in Batavia and Geneva.
Supporters said the plan would serve to renovate the deteriorating structure and provide needed low-income housing. Opponents said the plan would create substandard living conditions, produce unacceptable levels of traffic and lower surrounding property values.
In marathon meetings before the Batavia Plan Commission, the Batavia Historic Preservation Commission and the Batavia City Council, residents jammed the council chambers and engaged in heated debate.
Among those in opposition citing traffic concerns was Byrnes, whose legal objection was filed three days before a scheduled Nov. 6 council vote, which ended up being delayed.
Later, it was revealed that Byrnes in 2015 had explored the possibility with the city of Geneva staff for a 72-unit senior housing project, with rental assistance, on the Batavia Avenue Properties campus.
Whatever the result on Feb. 5, the struggle over the project may not end.
“We are exploring our legal options with regard to our opponents,” Block said.