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Article updated: 2/20/2013 12:12 PM

South Elgin OKs housing for low-income, disabled

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A plan for a new housing development for low-income and disabled people was approved by the South Elgin village board, despite a petition against it signed by more than 900 residents and business owners.

The board voted 5-1 on Tuesday night to grant a special-use permit and approve a preliminary development plan for Water's Edge of South Elgin at 481 Center Street. Trustee Mike Kolodziej cast the dissenting vote.

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The 50-apartment, three-story building will be located in a vacant industrial area downtown on the east side of the Fox River, north of the dam.

The estimated $14 million development is a joint project between the Association for Individual Development, based in Aurora, and The Burton Foundation of Sterling, Ill. Water's Edge would be split between affordable housing and housing for people with disabilities, mental illness and special needs, with one unit for a social worker and one unit for a property manager.

Trustee John Sweet pointed out that South Elgin residents on AID's wait list will get preference for occupancy.

"Ten years from now, I think South Elgin will be proud of this facility."

Residents who banded together as the South Elgin Legacy Alliance said they oppose the project not because of its nature, but its location.

"Most of us have family, friends, loved ones that fall into this category (of people with disabilities)," resident Don Means said.

Means cited concerns about pedestrian safety because of truck traffic along Center Street, which would have sidewalks on one side only.

Also, the bike path would meet the road too abruptly to guarantee bicyclists' safety, he said.

"How can South Elgin think this is a good use of their waterfront, unless this is an immediate financial fix?" resident Sue Rice asked.

Other residents cited concerns about the condition of buildings and the volume of 911 calls from 2009 to 2011 at other Burton Foundation facilities in Decatur and Rockford.

"This is our village, and we should have high standards," resident Lisa Earnest said.

Tracy Manning, executive director of The Burton Foundation, said the organization was working on a capital needs assessment for its Rockford site, one of its oldest.

She also said that 911 calls in the last year represented a much smaller number.

The village board will need to approve final plans for the project. If all goes smoothly, Manning said she hopes to break ground in June and begin leasing units in March 2014.

The proposed location is within a tax-increment financing district, where property taxes going to local governments are frozen at a specific level and tax revenues exceeding that amount are used for improvements within the taxing district.

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