St. Charles school, park officials get delay in 250-apartment project vote
St. Charles park and school officials took a rare stance against the final approval of a 250-apartment development project on the city's west side Monday night. It came down to money.
While most officials had high praise for the Prairie Winds plan, there's not yet a land appraisal for the development site that all taxing bodies can agree on. Aldermen, in deference to the park district, delayed the final vote until May.
School board President Kathy Hewell joined park district director Holly Cabel in calling for delaying the final vote on the development so the two taxing bodies' financial concerns can be considered. The Big Rock-based developer pursuing the plan, Executive Capital Corp., has submitted two appraisals that would undercut the fees the school and park districts expect to reap from the project.
At issue is the difference between how the city values an acre of land with city utilities and improvements such as sidewalks, streets and curbs, and the developer's appraisals. The city puts it at $240,500 per acre, based on a 2008 determination. The developer puts that value as low as $29,000 per acre and as high as $112,304 per acre, depending on what factors and what comparable land parcels are considered fair comparisons.
Park officials believe the developer's numbers are so far off that they will commission their own appraisal of the site.
The property is on Bricher Road, nestled between the Kane County Judicial Center complex and the Lowe's and Meijer stores that serve as a buffer between the project and Randall Road. The plan calls for apartments in 25 total buildings with rents ranging between $1,350 to $2,200 per month.
Such a project calls for nearly $1.27 million to flow to the park district's coffers for the added burdens the new residents living there will put on district services. But that figure is based on the per-acre land value and the assumption that none of the recreational amenities included in the project meet the district's recreational standards.
"We do have an issue with not having adequate involvement in the process," Cabel told aldermen in asking for a delay to the final vote. "The amenities should be considered."
Likewise, Hewell said the project is coming onto school district officials' radar. She said a major change to the method for calculating fair value of the land for development will also translate into major changes for the financial support new developments provide to local schools.
"We're concerned that future development will also want this deal," Hewell said. "The numbers for the land value don't seem to be apples to apples."
Jeff Ratzer, vice president of Executive Capital Corp., said the park district's attempts to undercut the quality of the proposed amenities in the project are an insult. He also pledged to make good on any money the school district believes it is entitled to, no matter what happens to the city's land value calculations.
"What we propose to do is make sure the school district is made whole," Ratzer said. "We are trying to get the park district more in line. We are not trying to hamper the school district."
Aldermen, in deference to the park district, delayed the final vote until May. Alderman Todd Bancroft called on the park district to be clear on what its standards are for acceptable amenities as well as specific details from the city regarding what an acceptable land appraisal must include.
Mayor Ray Rogina said he believes all concerned parties are not as far away from agreement as it may seem. He believes all the outstanding issues can be addressed by the next full council meeting in early May.