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posted: 1/22/2014 5:30 AM

Wheaton College gets approval to build 5 new dorms

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Wheaton College was given final approval by the city council Tuesday to move ahead with plans to build five new dorms on the southeast corner of Harrison and Irving avenues.

Wheaton City Councilman John Prendiville, who lives about a block away from the proposed dorms, was the only person to vote no on the measure that will grant the college a special-use permit for the residences. Mayor Michael Gresk was absent.

The college's plans include 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 each will house eight students.

During a city council meeting earlier this month, a group of residents said they worried the dorms might negatively impact traffic and property values. Concerns also were raised about the college's long-range plans, which may include the construction of more student housing and a performing arts center along Irving Avenue.

Madison Avenue resident Kraig Knudsen said Tuesday most people living near the proposed dorms knew from the beginning that the development would be approved. But he said he was disappointed that the plans weren't "formulated a little bit more" to please both sides.

"The college has stated previously that they're going to plan on being a little bit more vocal with the community and engaging us in their future development plans. I think this is a great first step," Knudsen said. "I think if we really have open dialogue together that we can come together and make their future plans more palatable and more enjoyable by the immediate community."

Councilman Todd Scalzo said the city council spent a lot of time reviewing both sides of the issue, but it still was a good learning process for the next time the college proposes a project.

"I think it was recognized, even by the college, that they kind of got into the process a little late, in engaging with the residents," he said. "But I think by the time it came for decision before us, there had been a lot of dialogue and ... a lot of headway made on both sides."

Wheaton officials said earlier this month they had met with neighbors at least four times during the zoning process.

Councilman Phil Suess said he felt the college does a good job of soliciting input from the community and making revisions to their plan to reflect some of the comments and concerns of residents.

"It may not be perfect in the eyes of everyone," he said, "but I just think it's important to acknowledge that there is a two-way discussion and, to the college's credit, they do make changes relative to what's originally proposed."

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