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updated: 11/21/2017 5:33 AM

With vote in doubt, Campana developer offers to change plan

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  • The Campana building, at Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway in Batavia.

      The Campana building, at Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway in Batavia.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Batavia City Council again on Monday put off voting on whether to let a developer put 80 apartments in the former Campana factory building, because the developer offered to change the plan.

The 8-6 vote in favor of tabling the vote until Feb. 5 drew groans from many in a large crowd.

Aldermen Martin Callahan, Elliot Meitzler, Alan Wolff, Mark Uher, Michael O'Brien and Scott Salvati voted against delaying the vote.

Salvati criticized Evergreen Real Estate Group for waiting until its back was against the wall, as he put it, before offering changes.

On Nov. 6, the last time the council was scheduled to vote on the proposal, it learned that due to a protest filed by an adjacent landowner, the project would need a "yes" vote from at least 10 of the 14 aldermen, instead of a simple majority. The vote was then tabled to Monday to confirm if the protest was valid so Evergreen could figure out if it wanted to proceed or withdraw.

"I am a 'no' vote, and I will always be a 'no' vote for this project," O'Brien said. He said the location is wrong for the affordable, accessible and low-income housing Evergreen has proposed.

But Alderman Dave Brown, who moved to delay the vote, said the council should be willing to consider any changes the developer wants to make.

If they are substantial, the project could be required to go through new public hearings before the plan commission, the historic preservation commission and the city council.

David Block, director of development for Evergreen, said the company realized it was unlikely to get 10 votes Monday night. So he presented a proposal to address one of the concerns opponents and some aldermen had raised about the types of windows for some of the 80 apartments.

Instead of having 23 apartments on the east side of the building, where historic glass block must be preserved, there would be only eight. And those glass-block windows could be outfitted with a central operable vision-glass window.

The rest of the apartments would be moved to additions on the north and south ends of the building.

The 12-acre site is zoned for mixed uses, including residential. Evergreen is requesting a planned-development overlay so that it can avoid having to do some things. That includes not having to have 25 percent of the first-floor space be devoted to stores, entertainment venues or restaurants, and having less vision glass on the front facade than city code calls for in a mixed-use development.

The building started as a factory in 1936 for the Campana Cosmetics Co. and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Evergreen has received an allocation of $1.34 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Those could generate about $14 million in equity, according to a spokesman for the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Protesters have said they are worried about the effect on traffic at the intersection and what will happen if the county and state eventually decide the property can have only right-in/right-out driveways. They said children living in the apartments would be unsafe if they played on the front lawn, where the developer has said a play field may be located. One person has questioned whether it will be safe for people to live in a building that has cellphone antennas on it.

Some also said they believed having government-supported housing there would lower the values of nearby homes.

Proponents said the area needs more low-income and affordable housing.

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