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Developer Wants to Rehab Contaminated Land to Build Homes

Lexington Homes looks to build a development on vacant, former industrial land north of Dean Street.

Like most young boys, Germaine Van Der Heyden’s oldest son Dana would go play in the dirt not far from their Cedar Street home.

Van Der Heyden, 70, recalls that several neighborhood boys also played in the “muck” practically every day. Decades later, as adults, those children developed cancer or other debilitating illnesses.

“It’s unusual for one block to have that many boys that seriously ill that early," Ver Der Heyden said.

Two had died before the age of 40, Van Der Heyden said. Doctors diagnosed her son with cancer at the age of 36.

Just a few streets away from the Van Der Heyden home is the former Allied Composites industrial site. Allied closed down in 2005 and has remained vacant since. The 28 acres, at least part of which has served as industrial property for 100 years, is spotted with contaminated areas and is in need of cleanup.

A developer, who first approached the city in 2008 about reclaiming the space for residential development, is again before the Plan Commission.

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Representatives from developer of the proposed Lexington Club site they intend to clean up the contaminated land and build more than 100 houses and townhouses.

Some residents who attended a recent public hearing on the proposed development voiced objections, citing concerns about the density of the  housing plan and the impact it would have on their old neighborhood.

A second go-around

Lexington Homes is proposing construction of 28 single-family detached units in the northeast part and another 114 attached units—mostly two-story townhouses and a dozen three-story row houses—to fill out the rest of the property.

The Chicago-based developer actually submitted two concepts plans in 2008 and 2009 for the property site north of State Street between 5th and 12th streets.

An attorney for Lexington told members of the Plan Commission on Oct. 4 the developers ran into pushback from the community and city officials year ago. Revisions were made between 2008 and 2009.

Now, they’re asking for amendments that would change the zoning from manufacturing to residential. This latest plan includes fewer houses that proposed in 2008, but significantly more than the 2009 plan called for.

“Blighted” land

Industrial development site was occupied by industrial businesses during a 100-plus year period, according to city documents outlining the development.

“Some of these businesses are known to have used materials or processes that have the potential to contaminate the ground if not properly contained,” the document states.

Lexington hired an environmental engineering firm to investigate the site. It identified 11 Recognized Environmental Conditions—areas that contain or likely contain hazardous materials or petroleum products. As a condition before any residential development could proceed, Lexington will have to receive a letter from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency which states that no further remediation of the property is needed.

The proposed plan would remove about 8,000 to 9,000 cubic feet of contaminated dirt.

Residents speak out

One particular concern among some residents—those who spoke at the Oct. 4 Plan Commission hearing—is the effects that could come from having a housing development with the density proposed.

“We chose to live there to get away from this kind of stuff," said Cedar Street resident David Amundson. He also serves on the St. Charles Housing Commission but said she spoke last week solely as a resident.

The neighborhood, which includes the Lexington site, is one of the oldest in the city.

While some neighboring homeowners see potential problems with the added housing, most, if not all, see the benefit in cleaning up the site.

Van Der Heyden acknowledges that while she believes it is unusual for so many to get sick in one area, she couldn't say for certain that the cause had something to do with the industrial area.

"Who is to say that their cancer or whatever they had was caused by [the contamination]?" Van Der Heyden said.

But she is certain about one thing: residents want to see the contaminated land fixed.

"Until it’s cleaned up, I don’t think anything should be built there," Van Der Heyden said.

Nolan Day October 13, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Mayor DeWitte would surely stand against this residential project as it will bring more traffic over our Main St Bridge, but then again it could be more kitchens to sell (Mayor DeWite owns a kitchen and cabinet business). Perhaps if the Bridge to Nowhere(now called the Red Gate Bridge)were stalled to see if it is really needed after Route 64 improvements are finished and the recently opened Stearns Rd Bridge potential is fully utilized. Maybe the $30 million for the un-needed bridge could be used to clean up this blighted land and it could be turned into a park. Or a light commercial business area providing jobs that local residents could walk to. But then again parks or businesses do not require many kitchens do they? Wasn't it nice during Scarecrow Fest to see people coming into town, supporting our businesses and enjoying the riverfront where 47 condos will set someday soon if the Mayor and City council don't properly use eminent domain and save this area for thousands of residents versus 47 families. But then again that wouldn't require many kitchens and cabinets. It is your $30 million dollars being mis-spent on a two lane bridge that dead ends into Route 25. Has the ground water or any wells nearby have been tested for pollutants in the old Allied Composites area? Not to pick on the Mayor but it is obvious he rushed the bridge's start before other factors show it to be a waste of your tax dollars. St Charles-Speak out to have your tax dollars spent wisely.
Bad Idea October 13, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Nolan Day, A few things you forgot. The mayor does sell cabinets and did supply them for those first street units. And while a alderman faught for the Reneax Manor developemnent, stepped back for the voting and then supplied the cabinets. And the plan commision president Tod wallace, Wife and mother M. Wallace "who sells alot of downtown SC properties will be selling these units. Also, Thompson middle school is over capacity, this would cause the school boundaries to be redrawn again. And people ask why it a continous fight of residents and big developers in Saint Charles. Get rid of DEWITTE.
lookinout4u October 13, 2011 at 05:40 PM
There is no certainty as to how much it will cost to clean up this site. The cubic yard figure that was given is an ESTIMATE. (Anyone familiar with the East Bank project in Aurora). This developer wants the city to provide a TIF for this development. So aside from all the other issues we will be investing in real estate that is contaminated and we do not know the cost of clean up. This sounds similar to some real estate investments that have been made and financed over the last 8 years. A road to success.
Nick Swedberg (Editor) October 13, 2011 at 06:16 PM
The TIF issue will come up soon. It was briefly discussed at the last meeting. I'll cover it when it comes before the council for discussion.
Tim Lavin October 15, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Funny how people always fight any kind of change. Nobody ever wants the new houses near them. I will say Im glad to see some delopment going on period, that will help add revenue to the city also. Clean up of this site sounds great, very funny that people would rather live next to a toxic waste dump than new townhomes! As long as it's not thier expansion or project people are opposed, so very predictable. STC would have just 5,000 residents if this mentality was enforced.
For The People October 15, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Tim, although I that can be the case at times, in this case the people would be fine with development there and infact welcome it, but they want it to be the right development. The developer agreed to s certain amount of single family and townhomes in 2009 and did not mention the City funding any of it. They talked about better materials etc.... then they came back with fewer single family and lots more townhomes, cheaper materials and now want the City to help fund it. That is where the problem is. They also are using a transportation study that is flawed. When all these issues are addressed appropriately then people will welcome it. So don't just assume they don't want anything. It is about time people speak out on their concerns and address the city on them. They have to live with it for the next 50 years .
Nolan Day October 15, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Tim, Change can be good. Regardless of whether the proposed site is used for residential, park land or commercial the city should consider it a matter of public safety to clean up the site or have any developer incorporate the cost into their selling price. Not come back to the tax payers for a hand out to benefit a for-profit developer in these economic times. Would St Charles really be a terrible place if it had just 5,000 residents? Public safety concerns such as cleaning up a toxic site or not increasing traffic around an already un-safe road next to North High should be a priority for our city council and mayor.
Elizabeth R October 16, 2011 at 03:34 PM
St Charles really doesn't need more residents, it needs more business, jobs and revenues. They do not need to fund the profits of a developer who knowingly purchased a dump site and who didn't hold the previous owner accountible for any of the clean up costs. Why should tax payers have to once again pay for his mistake? They could just as well extend the Foundary Development on Dean into that property which would create some jobs, tax revenues and control traffic better than slamming 300 new cars into a neighborhoods who's streets were never designed to accomodate the traffic and that is there 24/7 where businesses close and employees leave. St. Charles has done the worst job in the area when you look at Randall Road, ours is an embarrassment compared to S. Elgin, Geneva & Batavia. Let's finally get something right and make this situation work out for the City the residents and not Lexington Homes!
Elizabeth R October 16, 2011 at 04:23 PM
I do not feel we should be risking or investing in a residential development, especially now in this horrible real estate environment which hasn't shown any solid signs of ending and which could go bust leaving half built buildings which then create a blighted haven for crime, drugs, homeless and other problems. What is the rush that this has to be built in what is still the worst economy in a generation and when there is a glut of used homes which are still depreciating in value! Why Now, Why This? It surely does not make any real sense at all. Yes, get the property cleaned up, but Lexington is sitting with the "White Elephant" problem. They have no leverage to be demanding anything of St. Charles or it's tax payers. They hold no aces and for them to be asking for all the concessions they are, it's nuts for our City to not demand the very best project with all the issues and concerns of residents and the City fully adhered to and addressed if in exchange we help fund the clean up. The Park District also needs to revisit the poor plan of a park for the area. This entire side of Main Street has no real nice park from Rt. 31 to Randall Rd that offers a basketball court, a soccer field, a baseball field or anything. They need to put in something that gives residents and children something to actually use not just a small grassy area with a simple playground. We pay our taxes, we deserve more for this area!!
Nolan Day October 16, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Great points Concerned. Perhaps we can just observe the neighboring communities and pick up on their good and bad moves and stop hiring consultant after consultant - especially the sort that just tell the council what they want to hear and use surveys that don't hold water. It is good to have outside and citizen's opinions but this can be done without great expense to the tax payers. Let's encourage all concerned citizens to Occupy the St Charles city hall at the next council mtg to demand wise use of tax monies.
Elizabeth R October 16, 2011 at 06:01 PM
I truly believe more concerned people need to contact all the local press with letters to the editors, sound offs and voice their concerns and opinions about this project and City issues in general. Finally it sounds like the City is waking up to creating some incentive plans to get the East Side going but again why didn't they start this a year or two ago???? Plus they are considering a sales tax increase in that quadrant only to fund it, which I am leary of. In fact in today's Sunday Tribune there is an article about other suburbs trying to create incentives too but they are offering sales tax discounts instead which sure sounds more attractive to new businesses not making their customers pay more for the purchase. Again, sometimes you have to give in and lose a small amount of immediate revenues for the pay off and payback down the road with more sales taxes generated because of more new stores selling products and job creation in the long term. Our City leaders just don't seem to get it. Let's also do this program the right way, raising taxes even slightly make the playing field uneven against other area retailers.
Bad Idea October 19, 2011 at 03:05 AM
Well here we are all again, angry with Saint Charles. Dont even think that the TIF is your golden ticket to say no to this. When the plan commission vote in favor of the Towne Centre by Shodeen on the old SC mall site it had a TIF on that. They vote in favor of 650 apartments without bonus apartments. This project also included 15 percent dedicated to low income units. This project was in a TIF area. Problem is that the site on had 1/3 the retail space as the old mall. They said that a 25 car backup every day between peak hours at rt 31 and Prairie was ok. They voted yes! When they voted yes however Todd Wallace gave a little suggestion, "could you please make it a little smaller". Why has there be no follow up article on Todds little accident! The plan commission is on a different page than the people of Saint Charles. They are the cheer leaders for another agenda. With a town of 32000 people, about 5500 voted, and they voted 60 percent for DeWitte a life long resident. 40 percent went to a guy who lived here for 3 years, go figure. We need to vote DeWitte out and fire Bri., it would not be hard. 142 more houses pounding the over capacity Thompson Middle School and the Packed Davis Richmond Schools. Still we have no firm opinion from Don. And you wont, afraid to offend his cabinet buyers. We saw it all in the Towne center fight. Not willing to state how many unit he favored he just skirted the edge. Remember he is not doing anything illegal, because he doesnt vote.
David Amundson October 21, 2011 at 03:52 PM
For those who want to learn more about this proposed project, there is a Facebook Group dedicated to that purpose. The name of the group is "Citizens for Responsible Redevelopment of Applied Composites." It is an open group, and all are welcome to join. We are just getting going, so there is not much there yet, but that will be changing across the next several weeks. The only ground-rule for the group is that it is organized for pro-active, positive change on the political process, and as such, no personal attacks (this will not be the place to gripe about the sales of cabinets) or wild speculations will be tolerated. The purpose of the group is to try to impact, in a meaningful way, the political process such that whatever is ultimately built on the site will be something around which there is consensus in the impacted neighborhood. We will be having a face-to-face organizational meeting this coming Thursday (Oct 27th); details are on the FB site.
Vanessa Bell-LaSota October 22, 2011 at 02:21 AM
Residents, take a little time out, come to this Oct 27 meeting, 7:30pm, Bridges Academy at 1710 Howard St. Even if it is not your neighborhood-it's your town, tax dollars and quality of life. 3 projects are in stages of consideration that can affect us all: this toxic redev.site; Red Gate bridge phase one underway, but phases 2 & 3 must still be approved.(Have you seen the rte 25 side? Do you know, the city has only sent a 10% plan to the pipeline co. for safety assessment? That 30M is an estimate? That your taxes will pay for maintenance of a bridge for shoppers to bypass the heart of our city to Randall Rd? In reference to traffic reduction, a city Comp Plan consultant affirmed, "Be careful what you wish for"); third, an "East Side Business Redevelopment Overlay District" will add 3 taxes to purchases from 7th Ave businesses to the C. Mall, and eastern edges. The Concerned Coalition for Sensible Spending formed w/ neighbors across STC, for all of St Charles...we urge you to join us for this important meeting!
Vanessa Bell-LaSota October 22, 2011 at 02:37 AM
The decisions our city will make on these three issues will either complement or compromise the character and content of our neighborhoods with redevelopment and investment of our dollars.... will either build or thwart our area businesses in an attempt to cater to new business with copycat concepts not suited to the vision needed for sustaining growth in St Charles ....will either react to the desires of a weighty few over the voices of our community, or will consider the service and value of our respectful resident feedback with renewed respect. But, time is of the essence-there is always limited opportunity for public commentary. Come, get the facts you'll need, so you can send your commentary to your aldermen, city commissions and committees. Come & get involved, take a seat at city meetings on these issues. Otherwise we become the "WHERE WERE THEY'S" , accusations that I have heard mentioned way too many times at city meetings, as decisions have been made.
For The People October 22, 2011 at 04:43 AM
Vanessa2 thanks for doing a shout out on the meeting, but I just want to clarify that the meeting on the 27th is strictly about the Lexington Development from what I understand. There will be no discussion on the Bridge or the East Side proposal.
David Amundson October 22, 2011 at 02:45 PM
As one of the people running the meeting on the 27th, I will confirm that the meeting on 27th is, indeed, for the purpose of discussing the Lexington Club PUD. The meeting will have two main purposes: 1.) Networking; to allow people a chance to meet face-to-face and establish that human connection that is necessary for the formation of a cohesive group, and 2.) Education; bringing people up to speed on the history of the project, going over the alphabet soup that is governmental process (PUD, TIF, etc.), other practical concerns (traffic, when do gov't meetings happen, what happens at the meetings, etc.), and how we, as a group can have a meaningful impact on the process.
Vanessa Bell-LaSota October 24, 2011 at 02:14 AM
To clarify, Concerned Coalition for Sensible Spending of St Charles, Inc. supports and joins with this meeting and your goals of networking and education-we believe that this issue will resonate with all residents, once they have the facts. Our point is that this is one among three issues (Red Gate bridge, East Side Business overlay) that require our immediate attention. All three have the potential to reach into all of our pocketbooks, among other impacts. Not to dilute your point, David, but to underscore it, we are here to support your neighborhood in seeking the best solutions for the redevelopment of the Applied Composites site. Looking forward to a great forum, with high attendance comprised of residents from your neighborhood and concerned taxpayers from other areas of St. Charles!

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