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Letter to the Editor: Questions St. Charles Comprehensive Plan Direction

While St. Charles Patch does post letters to the editor, we invite our readers to consider starting a blog where they can express their opinions more frequently.

Dear editor,

On Wednesday, the St Charles Comprehensive Plan Task Force reviewed three subarea plans — East Gateway, Downtown and West Gateway. Mr. David Patzelt (president, Shodeen, Inc) leveled criticism of the wording and content of the three alternative plans for the former St Charles Mall site, property owned by Shodeen. Task Force response to his remarks suggests that the community workshops and input collected since their June 6th appointment carry far less weight than do the comments of one developer.

Based on his criticism of the West Gateway draft, to quote, “I don't see opportunity for residential,” and “it doesn’t allow for residential use above retail,” “I don't want to discuss the number of units, just uses” and the tone of such comments as “since (the Comprehensive Plan) can't prevent anything,” I am concerned that we are taking two steps backward in drafting a plan that can fit this unique area of the city. The Task Force immediately considered adding residential back into the single (of three) scenario that had no residential component. TF members debated redefining the residential option to allow for “all product types” and defining density with a “range.” One member loudly proclaimed that “we all know we need more residential to support retail” (no — that is opinion, and is arguable — I have contrary expert opinion available) and cautioned, “lets’ not lock us in … we all know what happens … politicians (your aldermen) have to vote yes or no, they (meaning we residents) scream at politicians and they fall, one by one,” (referring to the defeat of the Shodeen Towne Center proposal, 2010).

The consultant cautioned, “We cannot let objection to one subarea plan unravel the whole process — we have to find middle ground.” Chairman Anderson assured the plan can be “sandblasted later.” I live in this area — there is no middle ground, for a neighborhood and school community uniquely burdened and defined with the majority of apartments in this city. Residential is not an option, period, on this site. Consistent resident input has made that resoundingly clear.

I am beginning to doubt seriously that it has made an impression that can endure St Charles politics. How are we to see something different and more in line with the neighborhood from the developer, when he brought in a Plan Commission member to recite their 2-year-old findings, faulting the Task Force for not incorporating Plan findings into this document? The very findings that were contrary to what the residents came forward ( we did not scream) to express!

More can be done with this parcel, in its’ unique position along Randall and along Route 38, creating broader revenue streams for the city and better balance for the community and its resources, than can residential, in any form.

Another point, “mixed use” is not defined and limited as encompassing ALL options. Failed mixed use developments all over the U.S. used this very strategy. Industry experts, The Urban Land Institute, (ULI) have reported for years that now, we know how better to adapt this concept to the particulars of the community. Or do we? How quickly you all agreed to broaden the definitions of mixed use on 10/24. To what end, and for whom?

Greater vision and stewardship of the goals and objectives set forth in our Strategic and Comprehensive Plans are required of the Task Force. My impression is that something is driving the return of the "multifamily residential" argument, and transparency is missing from the dialogue. The Task Force needs to revisit the data they collected by the process they initiated ( and we taxpayers paid for) and question what really drives this document and it's revisions. Vague assurances from the Chairman, that the process is not over and not “set in stone”are no guarantee of equity. This process is incremental, make no mistake. Momentum seems to be building toward opening up development to more multifamily residential, more rental. Respect is lacking for we residents who strive to understand the process, do our due diligence to get the facts, create meaningful,continued dialogue with our city government. I, for one, do not “scream at our politicians.”

Vanessa Bell-LaSota

Vice president, Near West Neighborhood Association

President, Concerned Coalition for Sensible Spending of St Charles, Inc.

 

The ideas expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Patch. We encourage readers with differing viewpoints to submit their own letter to the editor by email to Ted.Schnell@Patch.com.
Pete Richards October 26, 2012 at 05:24 PM
St. Charles DOES NOT NEED more residential to support retail!!!! St. Charles has more residential than Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora, and South Elgin individually and yet those communities are doing a better job attracting retail to their communities than St. Charles is. To paraphrase an old saying, "Those who can, do; those who cannot, make excuses." Saying that St. Charles needs more residential to attract more retail is a fallacy of the highest magnitude. If people on that Task Force think that way, then they do not belong on the Task Force.
Henry James October 27, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I attended those many of those meetings and I saw no one screaming at those meetings. You ask what is driving these discussions again, the answer is the Mayor and the fact that Elburn tabled Shodeen for a long while. I find it very interesting that many of the Task Force members have a direct connect to the Mayor, especially Ms. Penny, Mr. Rabchuck and Mr. Doyle just to name a few. The Mayor has pushed for these high density aparment projects for the last few years and I hope someone really starts asking why. One reason could be because he is on his way out and he knows once he is gone these projects are dead
josephine s. October 28, 2012 at 09:23 PM
The term, "highest and best use" is seldom heard in St Charles.

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