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posted: 8/21/2012 1:12 PM

Wheaton College gets nod to expand student housing

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Wheaton College has won city approval to expand its student housing into a residential area bordering its campus.

City council members Monday unanimously approved the school's request to use several college-owned properties to house undergraduate students at 739 N. Irving Ave. and 510 and 520 Sears Lane.

In total, a maximum of 26 students are expected to occupy the three houses.

The college will provide student parking in an existing lot west of the former Wheaton Christian Grammar School building and demolish a garage to construct an access drive from the lot to Sears Lane.

The proposal provoked little discussion among council members, but there was a bit of a disruption during the roll call vote when one audience member repeatedly said "Excuse me."

After council members cast their votes, Celia Kuick, who lives on Irving Avenue, insisted the council did not invite public comment on the plans.

However, moments earlier, Mayor Michael Gresk had done just that.

"Does the audience want to address this?" Gresk said.

Although the council had approved the project, Kuick voiced concerns about the safety of students walking from the parking lot to the homes at night, saying she was acting as a "surrogate mother."

Also Monday, Bruce Koenigsberg, the college's architect, addressed some parking concerns.

He said the college will enforce restrictions in driveways and the school's parking lot, but "we don't have authority to enforce parking on the public street, nor even on Sears Lane, except the parts we own."

The college plans to begin assigning students to the houses this fall.

The city council also approved the college's proposal to build a new play area, including a sand volleyball court, on the former Wheaton Christian Grammar School property, purchased in 2009. The play area will replace a playground on the north section of the property at 530 E. Harrison Ave that was demolished in 2010.

The college will use the property for storage and possible extracurricular activities for students or meetings in the former grammar school building. No exterior changes are planned for the building.

In addition, the college will demolish two other campus properties, at 821 and 825 N. Irving Ave., for green space.

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