- May 21, 2015
Plan Commissioners sent developers for a proposed single family housing project for the historic 16 acre corner of Voltz and Waukegan a clear message: Make the project less dense or it will go to the Village Board without their approval. Representatives for the Edward R. James Companies gave a lengthy presentation about their Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposal, an age targeted community designed to appeal to empty nesters at last month’s Plan Commission meeting. The property, owned by the Anetsberger family, includes over 240 heritage trees. An important and unique component of the project is a proposal to preserve 67% of the heritage and landmark trees along the north side of the property along Waukegan Road. The plan included changes made in response to Trustee comments made earlier about density, traffic and infrastructure 10 months ago, but commissioners said they didn’t go far enough.
The new proposal reduced the number of homes by one — from 38 to 37 — and incorporated some of the suggestions, including adding a sidewalk and making the streets public. With the removal of three acres of trees, developers claim the density for the project would be 2.3 units per acre, less dense than the original proposal but higher than in surrounding neighborhoods.
The homes would be between 2600 and 3158 square feet, featuring ground floor master bedrooms to appeal to empty nesters. Outdoor playground equipment would be prohibited. Plan Commissioners expressed doubt that the homes would only appeal to empty nesters. The developer’s request to be excluded from school impact fees on the basis that few families would move into the homes, was questioned.
James removed the variance request for the rear yard setback, instead committing to a minimum 40 foot rear yard setback from the property line inclusive of decks and sunrooms. Still, neighbors voiced their opposition to the proposed plan at the meeting. Residents on Country Lane which abuts the project on the north complained that homes would dwarf their houses and still be too close. Others objected to the assumption that traffic would be relatively unchanged as the buyers would be retired. Neighbors cited examples of frequent backups at the Voltz and Waukegan intersection during early morning hours and at rush hour.
Other adjustments included increasing the building separation for the majority of homes from 12 to 15 feet, with homes along the northern portion of the property separated by 20 feet between each home. For comparison purposes, in a conventional subdivision in the R-4 zoning district, homes would have a required minimum separation of 18 feet (minimum 9 foot side yard). The minimum driveway length from the sidewalk to the garage was adjusted to a minimum of 20 feet. The exit lanes from the internal roadway to Voltz were widened from 15 feet to 20 feet in order to allow for two exit lanes and an unimpeded right and left turn lanes as an exit.
Commissioners generally praised the developers for the quality of their projects. However one by one, each commissioner echoed concerns about density and were in agreement that there were not enough changes made from the original proposal, with all noting that reducing the plan by one home was insufficient. Other comments were that there was inadequate on-street parking for the number of 3 bedroom homes and that there should be some connection to Lee Street. They also indicated a desire for a right-turn lane to Waukegan Road from Voltz.
Plan Commissioner Steven Elisco commented that the development is in some ways better than other developments approved in other areas of the Village, but questioned whether all options for the site had been explored. “Given the land and location, I’m not sure it is the only solution,” he commented. “The PUD is logical for the site but is it the only solution?”
Attorney Hal Francke indicated the developer’s reluctance to reduce the number of homes, noting any reduction in units would undermine the quality of the project and the ability to make engineering improvements and to underwrite the project itself. Plan Commission Chair Marcia Franklin firmly asserted that “The unanimous message is that the project is too dense.” She suggested they return with a new proposal at the June Plan Commission meeting, or take the project without the Plan Commission’s support to the Board of Trustees for a vote.