Why East Dundee won't consider controversial Water Street project

A proposed residential development that would have shut down part of Water Street has been met with resounding opposition from East Dundee residents and stakeholders - so much so that developers and village officials have decided not to move forward with the project.

The controversial plan from Billitteri Enterprises called for tearing down a vacant structure at 1 E. Main St. and constructing a four-story building along the Fox River. The project, which was up for a vote this month, also would have permanently closed Water Street from Route 72 to Jackson Street.

East Dundee officials supported the development in its early stages, saying it could spur growth and serve as a "focal point" for the downtown. But the project wasn't nearly as popular among community members, many of whom expressed concerns over how the area's traffic, economic activity and character would be affected.

In turn, East Dundee and Billitteri Enterprises made a mutual decision to withdraw the proposal from consideration, Village Administrator Jennifer Johnsen announced Tuesday.

"Despite the projected benefits of the project, the village believes that the opinions of East Dundee residents and business owners are valuable and should be considered when making decisions that will lead to a significant and permanent change within the village," Johnsen said in a statement.

Developer Joe Billitteri, who lives in East Dundee, also agreed to kill the development "due to the dissension created within the village," she added.

The village's proposed agreement with developers would have offered tax incentives and required public improvements such as a riverwalk and shoreline stabilization. Officials also were expected to consider using the additional tax dollars generated by the project to upgrade the Route 72 and River Street intersection.

While evaluating the possible effects of the project, East Dundee conducted traffic studies and spoke with several nearby businesses and residents, Johnsen said. Dozens of business and property owners, many of whom publicly spoke out against the plan, also signed a petition urging the village to halt negotiations.

East Dundee would have had to overcome "a lot of obstacles" to move the project forward, Village President Lael Miller said. Ultimately, he said, the decision came down to both the community's reaction and logistical issues of the plan.

"We always listen to our residents, and there were some that had some very serious concerns, and I think the board listened to that," Miller said. "We're not going to do things that are going to make people unhappy. We want to do things to make (the town) better."

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