A Northfield-based developer wants to build a four-story, self-storage facility in Wheaton, touching off a debate about its potential impact on a nearby Carol Stream shopping center.
BRB Development LLC is seeking an annexation agreement with Wheaton for a long-vacant parking lot on an unincorporated parcel at the northwest corner of Main Street and Geneva Road. The company is expected to buy the lot from its current owner, Chicago-based Centrum Properties, pending annexation and city approval of zoning plans.
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The proposal would bring a 46-foot-tall facility from the Lock Up self-storage chain to the lot, next to the Main Street Market Place shopping center, also owned by Centrum Properties.
Critics say the proposal could adversely impact the nearby Geneva Crossing shopping center, which is anchored by a Dominick's grocery store, in Carol Stream. Last week, the Carol Stream village board passed a resolution objecting to the developer's request, citing, among other things, a concern that the height of the proposed storage facility could reduce the visibility of the Carol Stream shopping center.
"We feel that a self-storage use is not compatible with the adjacent commercial uses," Carol Stream Community Development Director Bob Glees told the Wheaton City Council at a public hearing on the proposal Monday night. "We think that there are better development opportunities for this property."
Councilman Todd Scalzo called the formal objection "odd" and "unusual."
"I'm always dubious when we have people outside our immediate area come and talk to us about a development," Mayor Michael Gresk said. "Our main responsibilities here are to do what's best for the city of Wheaton and our tax base."
Councilman Phil Suess questioned what Carol Stream would envision for the site.
"This is on the surface of it a pretty difficult site to develop," Suess said. "It's basically landlocked."
Glees did not respond with a concrete vision, but called for a "team-oriented exercise" in the development of the property.
Meanwhile, owners of the Geneva Crossing shopping center historically have denied access from the lot to the main drive serving the shopping center.
"This (self-storage) use is viewed as so unpalatable and so unacceptable that at no price would Regency be willing to grant cross access," said Steve Ruffalo, an attorney for the shopping center owner, Regency Centers.
Accessibility has been one of the challenges in a roughly six-year search to attract a buyer for the lot, said John McLinden, of Centrum Properties.
"If we are not allowed to develop this type of use, quite frankly, I'm not sure what it will be," McLinden said. "It's not going to be retail."
One hurdle for the potential project involves stormwater issues. Currently, the proposal is in compliance with the countywide standards, but under the city's ordinance, Wheaton would enforce a stricter standard that requires all commercial and industrial developments to provide stormwater detention, said Paul Redman, Wheaton's director of engineering.
That means the city would have to amend its ordinance for the current proposal, without plans for detention, to move forward. The annexation agreement and zoning plans are expected to come before the city council next month, City Manager Don Rose said.