Residents of neighborhoods in Batavia and Aurora showed up en masse to a Batavia committee meeting Tuesday to let aldermen know they don't want an industrial park built on the east side of Kirk Road across from their homes.
"When the residents of Kirkland Chase moved in, if this industrial complex had already been built at the entrance of the subdivision, I'm sure that most of us, including myself, would not have moved in there," said Dan Pepin, of 1219 Howe St. in Batavia. He spoke on behalf of Keeping Batavia Neighborhoods, a group that organized to protest the proposed Prairie Commons development.
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About 140 people attended the meeting. Many signed a petition protesting Prairie Commons.
Pepin said allowing the industrial use would set a precedent for more industrial zoning on Kirk Road. The 56-acre site is on the southeast corner of Kirk and Wind Energy Pass. It abuts an Aurora residential neighborhood to the south.
The city annexed the land in 2004, and approved stores, restaurants and 242 townhouses and duplexes in 2007. It took eight years to get to that vote -- but the property got tied up in probate, then the real estate market crashed. It is now up for sale.
"There is a moral issue at play here in our opinion," said Chris Virelli, another speaker for Keep Batavia Neighborhoods. Batavia should "respect the rights of neighboring communities," he said. He said it would be smart politically as well. "How might Aurora return the favor some day for the bait-and-switch job?" said Virelli, who lives at 2020 Conde Court in Batavia.
Only one audience member spoke in favor of the development. Yvonne Dinwiddie, who lives at 1156 Pine St. on the east side, said a townhouse development would send more children to Batavia schools, increasing that school district's residents' tax burden. An industrial development would improve Batavia's property taxes, she said. As for the fear that increased truck traffic will turn Kirk Road back in to the "Killer Kirk" of the 1980s and 1990s, she noted people who opposed the construction of a trash-transfer station off Kirk in 2002 raised similar objections. That fear never materialized, she said.
A traffic study commissioned by the developer says that there would be less traffic generated by a light industrial use than by residential and commercial use, according to a March 2014 city memo on the proposal.
Although the committee did not respond to the remarks, because the matter was not on the agenda for the meeting, it did agree to Keep Batavia Neighborhoods' request to talk about it at an Aug. 19 committee meeting. Representatives of the developer and the company interested in using the site will be invited.