Geneva zoning panel OKs MWI’s annexation, industrial development

The Geneva Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of an annexation, rezoning and planned unit development petition from MWI Property Group — formerly Midwest Industrial Funds — for 211.43 acres on the city’s east side for industrial development.

The company changed its name because of its expansion into national real estate development, said Justin Fierz, a founding principal at the April 11 planning and zoning hearing. He said the company is one of the largest industrial developers in the Chicago area.

In its annexation petition, the company proposes 2.5 million square feet of buildings, its $250 million investment in the project, an additional $20 million in infrastructure for roads, lighting, electric utility, storm and sanitary sewers.

The build-out would create 1,000 construction jobs, 1,200 permanent jobs and have a $308 million total economic impact to the area.

“We’ve been one of the most active developers, especially in the last 18 months,” Fierz said.

The company proposes to have eight buildings, parking for 1,883 cars and 466 truck trailers. Fierz said the company can convert any warehouse to a manufacturing building that are all designed for maximum flexibility.

The infrastructure improvement would not only serve this development, but would serve as a regional improvement to the entire eastern portion of Geneva, he said.

A year’s worth of work would be dedicated just to the Kautz Road extension because Route 38 — also known as Roosevelt Road — is at a higher elevation, Fierz said.

Michael Androwich, also a founding principal, said the project would have a 40-acre conservancy area, expanding on an existing 8.42-acre wetland.

“We really fell in love with the whole idea of conservancy,” he said.

The area will have 1,612 trees preserved, an additional 80 trees for the parkway and common areas and 496 trees for the building lots for a total of 2,188, Androwich said.

The conservancy area would remain in perpetuity as a conservation easement to be managed by a leading conservancy agency in Chicago, he said.

“We thought this was a great asset we were creating for Geneva, Kane County and actually the state of Illinois,” Androwich said.

Another plus for the region will be better water quality that will drain off into creeks, streams and rivers, he said.

“This will create a better habitat for pollinators,” Androwich said. “I guess that’s the birds, the bees, the butterflies, the bats ... insects, wildlife — they’ll all frolic in this 40 acres for — really — for eternity.”

Company attorney Matthew Norton said the proposed use for the property is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

“Sometimes, the answer to that question is not clear,” Norton said. “But we’re fortunate that it is crystal clear here.”

Once the project is completed, Norton said the company would create an owners association for the park in perpetuity, starting with the developer, then eventually a special service area.

Geneva Township resident Brian Maher, who began an unsuccessful campaign last year to save a stand of 300-year-old burr oaks on the property, said he tried to have some dialogue with the company to reconfigure its design so the old oaks could be saved.

“After trying numerous times with no response from MIF, we tried to get a response by utilizing public opinion and the media,” Maher said.

“With nearly 5,000 signatures on a petition, many phone calls, many emails to them, media coverage on WBBM, WLS, the Daily Herald, the Chronicle and the Tribune, and we could not get a response from anyone,” Maher said. “They gave their response on the Tuesday after Labor Day 2023. That’s when we awoke to the sound of saws taking out trees.”

Without a Kane County tree preservation ordinance, there was nothing to stop them from taking down the trees, Maher said.

“So here they are, hat in hand, asking for rezoning and annexation,” Maher said. “My daddy told me, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’”

Company representatives did not acknowledge or respond to Maher’s comments.

The commission voted 4-0 with three absent to recommend approval of the company’s application for annexation, rezoning and planned unit development. The proposal will go to the city council for final action.

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