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updated: 6/17/2014 11:16 AM

Wheaton city council approves controversial Farnham Lane development

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  • City Attorney James Knippen, third from left, talks about how the Wheaton City Council is legally obligated to approve a controversial development on Farnham Lane during a meeting Monday.

       City Attorney James Knippen, third from left, talks about how the Wheaton City Council is legally obligated to approve a controversial development on Farnham Lane during a meeting Monday.
    Jessica Cilella | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Farnham Lane development

 
 

After many discussions over several years, the Wheaton City Council approved a proposal for a controversial development that neighbors say will change the feel of their street for the worse.

In April, the council denied a proposal that would have re-subdivided the properties at 102, 106 and 108 E. Farnham Lane into seven single-family lots. The council also denied a special-use permit for the same request last year.

Since then, however, Cesario Builders made changes to the proposal so it is in compliance with the requirements of the residential district the new homes will be located in, such as lot size and setbacks.

More than half a dozen residents spoke at a city council meeting Monday in opposition of the development, stating that it could have negative impacts such as increased traffic, flooding issues, devaluation of existing homes and a change in the character of the street.

Dawson Bartlett said he moved to Farmham Lane a year ago because of the feel of the neighborhood.

"It's a very unique place," he said of the street, which has an estate property look to it. "There's nothing to be gained (with the proposed development) other than a very quick buck for a developer in rapid, rapid expansion."

Another Farnham Lane resident, Sandra Becky, said she cut her vacation short and drove 400 miles to be at Monday's meeting because the council's decision was so important to her.

"Once it's put in, we can't undo anything," she said, voicing concerns primarily about how increased traffic on the already busy street -- which contains no sidewalks ­-- could public safety. "I hope that you take this into consideration, that it's not a safe thing to be putting in."

Multiple members of the council also expressed their disapproval with the plans.

"Our staff has looked at this many times and have been very consistent in their opposition to this because it doesn't comport with what we think is proper planning for the city," said Councilman John Prendiville. "It's contrary to the desires of the neighborhood and to the city. It's just not orderly development."

But the city council had no other choice than to approve the proposal, which now divides the property into nine single-family lots.

They did so with a 5-1 vote. Councilman Thor Saline was the only person to vote no. Mayor Michael Gresk was absent.

City Attorney James Knippen said in other cases, the appellate courts have determined that a municipal council does not have the discretion to deny an application when the property is in full compliance of ordinances.

"If this council denies this zoning application and there is litigation there is an extremely high probability ­-- in fact, I can't see an alternative conclusion ­-- that the city will lose the litigation," Knippen said.

Councilman Phil Suess said he unfortunately had to agree with the comments made by Knippen.

"This has been a very frustrating discussion," he said, adding that he knows there are at least two additional plots nearby that developers may be eyeing to do something similar.

Residents like Natalie Kolody ­-- whose home on the adjacent Wadsworth Road has flooded several times from water that drains from the property where the new homes will be built -- left the meeting surprised and angry that the council allowed the proposal to go through.

"It shouldn't have gone this way," she said while holding back tears.

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