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updated: 1/6/2014 11:57 PM

Residents express concerns about Wheaton College dorm plans

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New student residences for Wheaton College are on track to be built on the southeast corner of Harrison and Irving avenues despite disapproval from some neighbors, including a city councilman who lives nearby.

The college is proposing the construction of five new dorms, including two buildings housing 12 students each that will face Irving Avenue and look like single-family homes from the exterior, and three buildings facing Harrison Avenue that will each house eight students.

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The Wheaton City Council voted 6-1 Monday to have an ordinance drafted that will grant the college a special-use permit for the residences.

Councilman John Prendiville, who lives about a block away from the proposed dorms, voted no. He said approving the proposal would ignore the city's zoning code, which says a special use permit shall not be issued unless standards are satisfied, including proof that the proposed use will "not substantially diminish property values within the neighborhood."

The college worked to meet that "burden," city officials said, by having an appraisal done to examine the impact of the proposed housing on property values nearby. By researching residences adjoining Wheaton College, Elmhurst College and North Central College, the appraisal group concluded that property values in the neighborhood would not be diminished.

"In fact, we are planning to invest $2.5 million in this project that should enhance this neighborhood and add value," said Wheaton College architect Bruce Koenigsberg, adding that the college has met with neighbors at least four times during the zoning process.

But some of the six residents who spoke at the meeting said they felt having 48 students moving in so close to their homes would negatively impact property values and traffic.

Harrison Avenue resident Katharine Hodges said she was dissatisfied with both the manner in which the proposed development has been handled so far and the study's conclusions.

"We know it's their land (and) we know they will develop it, but the way that it stands, it is distinctly going to jeopardize our property values and our neighborhood," she said.

Jefferson Avenue resident Jan Jones said she enjoys living near the college, but she hopes neighbors will keep a "watchful eye" on the college's long-range plans because it appears the new housing may be the first step in more development along Irving Avenue.

"The number of students that have moved into Wheaton College-owned houses ... not private citizen-owned houses that house college students, has increased dramatically in the last couple of years," she said. "That is a concern for us."

The college has proposed building a new performing arts center and additional student housing just south of the five proposed dorms.

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