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updated: 11/28/2012 5:02 PM

Naperville developer's son rips into Water Street foes

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  • The proposed Water Street project in downtown Naperville has drawn both support and criticism.

      The proposed Water Street project in downtown Naperville has drawn both support and criticism.
    Rendering courtesy of Marquette Properties

 
 

The son of a Naperville developer has chosen an unusual tactic to garner support for his father's proposed Water Street project: insult those opposed to the plan in an email circulated throughout the city.

Bryan Bottarelli, 35, sent the email to roughly 100 people, in which he blames the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation for the possible demise of the Water Street Project, which is being proposed by his father Bruno's Marquette Properties group.

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The project, earmarked for 2.4 acres on Water Street bounded by the DuPage River, Aurora Avenue, Main Street and Webster Street, would include a 131-room Holiday Inn Express hotel, a 580-space parking deck and more than 65,000 square feet of office and retail space.

Supporters say the project is just what Naperville needs to maintain a "vibrant and bustling" downtown.

Opponents, including the homeowners group, believe the eight-story project is too tall and too dense and will not mesh with the rest of downtown.

The plan so far has failed to win support from the majority of the city council. Marquette officials are expected to submit a revised proposal to be considered at Tuesday's meeting.

In his email, Bryan Bottarelli said the council has been "politically intimidated by a group of old-economy thinkers who call themselves the Naperville Homeowners Confederation."

"This group claims to represent all the homeowners associations in Naperville. But in reality, it consists of a handful of older residents who are bored -- and who have nothing better to do than to try keeping Naperville the same exact way it's been since the 1950s," the younger Bottarelli wrote. "They're afraid of change -- and they're using fear tactics to red-light this project. And be honest -- what they're doing has been working. They know how to work the local political system to their advantage.

"And, since they have so much extra time on their hands, they've committed their days to bombarding city council with emails, letters, and phone calls in complete opposition to this deal."

Bruno Bottarelli on Wednesday stood by his son and said he appreciates the support.

"His age group holds a lot of voting power and he is making sure city leaders understand downtown is an important part of their life," Bruno Bottarelli said. "My son is a libertarian and he believes in a free expression of the people. I applaud him for it and appreciate the courage it takes to stand up for what is right."

The homeowners group, meanwhile, took offense.

"The confederation is disappointed at the tone of the email by Mr. Bottarelli's son," President Bob Buckman said in a written statement. "This is not in keeping with the tradition of respectful public discourse in Naperville that we all value. It is unfortunate that his description of us does not in any way represent the confederation's members, or our many contributions to civic life in Naperville. Since 2006, the confederation board and its members have carefully studied, dissected, looked for alternatives, met with the developer, submitted a comprehensive report in 2007 and testified at plan commission and now at city council on this proposed development."

Council members expected to consider the latest version of the plan say Bottarelli's email couldn't have come at a worse time.

"I saw the email and it's completely inappropriate. It's a sideshow to distract us from the project and concerns," said Councilman Steve Chirico, who has been one the development's biggest supporters on the council. "I don't like that nonsense. It's not helpful, appropriate or accurate. It's not a positive way to negotiate and have good-faith discussions."

Councilwoman Judy Brodhead, who has opposed the height of the project, said the email didn't do the developer any favors.

"I understand there is a constituency that feels as though their desires may not be being met but it's difficult to garner support by insulting people," Brodhead said. "I've got thick enough skin that I don't take it as a personal insult, but there are definitely more successful ways to garner support out there."

Bryan Bottarelli, however, stands by his email.

"(The) bottom line is this: Politically correct or not, the council is finally starting to listen to the views of the 30- to 45-year-old demographic group," he said. "And that was the intention of this effort."

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