Residents who on Monday felt disheartened by the St. Charles City Council’s approval of the Lexington Club development may have taken a measure of reassurance home one night later as the Plan Commission chairman promised a thorough look at the 2013 draft comprehensive plan.
Once complete, the document is intended to be a guide for all future development in St. Charles over the next 20 years. Some of those who have been watching the task force work with the city’s consultant over the past 18 months to pull together the draft document are the same ones who were closely following the Lexington Club and Corporate Reserve developments, both with residential components on the city’s West Side.
The City Council Planning and Development Committee last month outright rejected the developer’s proposed revision to add high-density housing to the Corporate Reserve, which originally had advanced as a business park. Rather than risk the outcome of a formal council vote on the plan, the developer withdrew it, avoiding a forced yearlong hiatus on further consideration had the proposal been formally rejected. At the same meeting, aldermen rejected a tax-increment financing agreement for the Lexington Club project, but the developer returned with an alternative plan on Monday, which a sharply divided council approved in full.
Monday’s action on Lexington was a bitter blow to the neighbors who had opposed it, and some expressed their disappointment and anger after the meeting and in comment threads on St. Charles Patch stories Tuesday.
For some, it was their interest in the Lexington Club and Corporate Reserve projects that prompted their involvement in the comprehensive plan process.
Chairman Todd Wallace, at the outset of Tuesday’s Plan Commission meeting — its first of the year, and its first formal review of the draft comprehensive plan — reassured those who showed up for the meeting that the commissioners intend to thoroughly review the draft document.
“This process will last several meetings,” he said. “We will work as long as it takes for us to make a recommendation to the City Council.”
There were some positive signs during the ensuing discussion. Two residents who have spoken out against both the Corporate Reserve and Lexington Club developments shared information that visibly surprised at least one member — Commissioner Brian Doyle.
Kim Malay, a 5th Ward candidate for alderman, and Vanessa Bell-LaSota both told the commission the oppoents to the two projects who have been following the comprehensive plan work are not opposed to new residential development in St. Charles. They said they are open to such development — as long as it is done with sensitivity to the neighborhoods in which they’re built, and balance — in other words, not confined to one are of town, but spread out evenly around the city.
Malay did insist, however, that the best use of the old St. Charles Mall property on the West Side is not for housing. Rather, she said, it is St. Charles’ last shot at creating commercial development — and generating tax dollars for the city — along Randall Road.
Still, the comments from Malay and Bell-LaSota appeared to astonish Doyle.
“It is no secret to anyone that I support mixed-use development,” he said. “But what I have been hearing more recently is an objection to any new residences on these two sites and no mixed use downtown.”
Malay’s and Bell-LaSota’s comments, he said, marked a significant change in his understanding of past criticisms.
“I’ve been hearing that any mixed use outside of downtown was objectionable. What I am hearing now is that it is OK — when it is balanced and sensitive to area,” Doyle said.
That was just a portion of more than two hours of discussion — an overview of the plan and the start of a chapter-by-chapter review of the plan. The commission made it into the fourth of the draft’s 11 chapters before calling it a night.
The commission next meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in the City Council Chambers, to begin reviewing the next chapters of the draft plan. Other meetings are planned in February.
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