Only 40 people signed in during Wednesday’s open house, but easily 60 or more stopped by the City Council Chambers during the session to look over, comment on or ask questions about the 2013 draft St. Charles Comprehensive Plan.
The mood was cordial and the crowd conversational during the more than 90-minute open house, where residents were invited to look over the plan and share their written comments about it. Those comments will be considered by the Comprehensive Plan Task Force when it meets Dec. 12 to decide whether or not to pass the draft document to the St. Charles Plan Commission with a recommendation for adoption.
That meeting will mark the end of the task force’s efforts but will not mean the draft plan is a done deal. The Plan Commission has its own process to follow when it receives the draft plan, meaning the public will have another opportunity to speak out on the plan as that work advances. After that, the plan will head to a City Council committee, which will include another round of public meetings.
There are still plenty of opinions out there, and while some of those who talked to St. Charles Patch during the open house expressed concerns they have, none outright condemned the draft plan.
Realtor John Glenn, of St. Charles, said he is generally supportive of the plan. Glenn said that he likes that the draft comprehensive plan is proactive and forward-looking. Further, he said, he is not too concerned about the fears some have expressed that the plan might prove too rigid or lock the city one direction.
“Given it’s all long-range, there is plenty of time to revise it for concerns about anything that is implemented down the road,” he said.
Rick Ballaert, a West Side resident, said his main reason for coming to the open house was due to his concern about the proposed Lexington Club on the West Side near his home.
“They’re talking 120-plus units — town homes and condos,” Ballaert said, adding he favors a development of more like 80 single-family homes. He said he remains concerned about the impact a higher population density in that development would have on the immediate area surrounding the development, especially when considering there is limited access to the site. Whatever goes there, he continued, should blend into the existing residential neighborhood, perhaps with the addition of a nursing home or a health club to get some business elements into the area.
Larry Norgaard, of St. Charles, said he is convinced the West Side, especially the old St. Charles Mall site, is not a good choice for multifamily development, a proposal favored by some but opposed by very vocal critics. A multifamily development — generally meaning apartment complexes — would generate too much commuter traffic from the West Side, through residential areas, and then to the East Side of town, Norgaard said. That would increase the already heavy rush-hour congestion on both the Route 64 and Route 38 bridges over the Fox River, he said.
Norgaard said he believes the most appropriate place for new multifamily housing in St. Charles is on the East Side, where there is quick access to commuter routes such as Route 59 without impacting downtown St. Charles. That also would build up a better customer base for additional development at Charlestowne Mall.
He also expressed concern about bike paths noted in the plan but that are not yet established. He worries that bike paths on highways could spell trouble — “We don’t need anyone dying on St. Charles streets.”
Vanessa Bell-LaSota, vice president of the Near West Neighborhood Association, who has been outspoken in the past over her concerns about the plan, said Wednesday she is generally encouraged by what she was seeing at the open house.
One of her key concerns, she said, has been that the draft comprehensive plan be complete in its land use plan, particularly concerning historical properties in the Red Gate Road corridor, which faces the potential for significant change when the bridge bearing the road’s name opens in mid-December. The bridge will bring greater traffic to Red Gate Road, as well as the potential for new development, and Bell-LaSota wants the city to ensure its historical sites are cared for when those changes begin.
Houseal Lavigne Associates, the consultant that has been working with the task force to craft the draft plan, has been listening to her and addressing the historical site concerns in the land-use plan that will accompany the draft of the greater document, Bell-LaSota said,
“The consultant has been very responsive,” she said.