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updated: 1/24/2014 2:54 PM

Marklund takes step back from expansion plan

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  • Marklund has withdrawn an application to expand its school for children with autism in Bloomingdale but plans to make another attempt to get village approval for the project.

      Marklund has withdrawn an application to expand its school for children with autism in Bloomingdale but plans to make another attempt to get village approval for the project.
    Daily Herald file photo


Marklund is expected to make another attempt to sell Bloomingdale officials on a proposed building addition after the village's plan commission recommended denial of the project.

The nonprofit organization has withdrawn an application to build a $4 million expansion of its school for children with autism.

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But Gilbert Fonger, president and CEO of Marklund, on Thursday said the agency plans to submit a new application in February or March and restart the process of trying to get village approval.

"We're definitely going forward with the project," he said. "It's just that we decided to basically take a step back."

Marklund officials were caught off guard by the plan commission's negative recommendation, which was made after neighbors of Marklund's Bloomingdale campus complained the proposed expansion would create a safety risk by increasing traffic. The chairman of the plan commission said after the vote that the neighborhood wasn't designed to handle the amount of traffic the addition would generate.

Even though the village board has the final say on whether the application is approved, Marklund still wants to try to get the support of the plan commission, according to Fonger.

"We certainly know what the issues are now," he said. "We're going to really focus on those as we go forward."

The proposed expansion would be to Marklund's Life Skills Academy, which provides specialized support to students diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Marklund would like to partner with Wheaton College to open the academy's enrollment to more students from Cook, Kane, DuPage, Lake and Will counties.

But neighbors say there's already a lot of traffic on South Prairie Avenue, which buses and other vehicles use to reach Marklund's campus. In addition to the academy, the site houses the Marklund Children's Home and the Marklund Day School, which is a facility for children with medical, developmental and physical disabilities.

Fonger said Marklund has done a recalculation and determined the expansion would add fewer students and teachers than originally estimated. According to the latest estimate, the project would add 36 students to the existing program.

Overall, Fonger said, the projected number of additional students and staff has been reduced by 40 percent.

"Thus, traffic is going to be less," Fonger said. "There will be fewer buses, fewer cars, fewer everything else."

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