Affordable housing project debate extends to second meeting in Arlington Heights
A debate about a proposed 40-unit affordable housing complex on Rand Road in Arlington Heights went late into the night at Monday's village board meeting, and though a final vote hadn't yet been taken after hours of discussion about the Crescent Place apartments, a number of village trustees appeared to be open to the development.
Just before midnight, the board agreed to continue consideration of the project until a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27. Mayor Tom Hayes suggested the delay, given the lateness of the hour, and the expectation of another two hours of public comment and board deliberation.
Housing Trust Group, a Miami-based national developer of affordable housing, and Northlake-based Turnstone Development Corp. has proposed the four-story, 45,000-square-foot apartment building at 310 W. Rand Road on the site of a former Polish restaurant.
But because the site has been vacant for nearly two decades with other redevelopment proposals never gaining traction, some village trustees said it was time to rezone the property on the busy commercial corridor for a multifamily residential use.
"When it comes to commercial space, the market has spoken, and the market has resoundingly said no to commercial space for the last 19 years," said Trustee Mary Beth Canty, who made the motion to approve the rezoning and other requested actions. "So I am hesitant to turn up my nose at developers who want to locate there in hopes we might find a commercial developer one day that might go in there. I'd hate to see it wait another 20 years."
Trustee Nicolle Grasse, who seconded Canty's motion at the start of village board questions and deliberations at 9:30 p.m., called the proposal "an exciting possibility for a very blighted lot."
And Grasse added, "There is an urgent need for affordable housing, even in Arlington Heights. ... I'm grateful that this opportunity has been presented."
The developer has proposed pricing all 20 one-bedroom and 20 two-bedroom apartments at or below market rates. Of the 40 total units, 32 would be rented to those making no more than 60% of the area median income -- rents of $800 to $900 for a one-bedroom, and $1,100 to $1,200 for a two-bedroom. Eight one-bedroom units would be for those making at or below 30% of area median income, with rents of $400 to $500.
Trustee Jim Bertucci said he's in favor of affordable housing but believes the village planning staff -- who recommended approval of the project -- may be premature in turning the commercial site over to a residential use, which is assessed at lower levels.
"I'm just watching us kind of nick away at prime commercial space that could be giving the taxpayers a break," said Bertucci, comparing the Rand Road commercial corridor with major thoroughfares like Arlington Heights Road and Northwest Highway.
Neighbors of the proposed complex have argued the redevelopment would bring too much density and traffic to their already congested neighborhood, though the project has also registered some support in Arlington Heights.
Public comment began at 10:30 p.m. during the meeting, which village officials decided to hold virtually in anticipation of a capacity crowd. Hayes said more than 100 people were watching via Zoom, while the village boardroom could fit only 35 people under COVID-19 restrictions.
"We had no intent to discourage participation by holding this meeting virtually," he said at the start of the session. "My intent was the opposite in making sure everybody could participate."