Should land near Nokia in Naperville be zoned for housing?

  • The northernmost 67 acres of the Nokia property in Naperville could be designated for residential use if the city council approves a zoning change. The council is slated to discuss the matter during its March 17 meeting.

    The northernmost 67 acres of the Nokia property in Naperville could be designated for residential use if the city council approves a zoning change. The council is slated to discuss the matter during its March 17 meeting. Daily Herald file photo April 2018

 
 
Updated 2/24/2020 3:54 PM

Some neighbors say the best use for the marshy, open property on the north side of the Nokia campus in Naperville is to remain as wetlands.

But the city council on March 17 is slated to discuss a recommendation to rezone it for residential use as houses, duplexes or townhouses.

 

The request comes as Nokia works to sell its 175-acre property at the corner of Naperville and Warrenville roads and lease back a 46-acre portion that contains its office and lab.

The planning and zoning commission granted preliminary approval in November to a request to subdivide the property into four parcels, and now the company is seeking a new zoning designation for the northernmost parcel.

Nokia representatives say the requested changes are part of a "transformation" planned for the property.

The southernmost plot -- a 41-acre site with a building constructed in 2001 -- will be turned into a multitenant office building, said Tom Gorman, senior vice president of Colliers International, who is representing Nokia.

A 20-acre portion on the west side of the property will remain as stormwater detention, and an electric substation also will stay put.

But the future of the 67 acres farthest from Warrenville Road and closest to Danada Forest Preserve is drawing different opinions.

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Planning and zoning commission members last week gave preliminary approval to Nokia's request for R2 zoning, which allows single-family homes and duplexes and townhouses with a conditional use. Without a zoning change, the property's designation for office, research or light industrial use could allow a warehouse or distribution facility -- uses Gorman said three developers have proposed but city leaders would like to avoid.

There is not yet a specific plan for housing on the site, Gorman said. But if the city council approves the zoning change, Nokia can pitch the property to developers with one major step toward permission to build homes already in place.

A future developer later would need to get its designs approved by seeking a major change to a planned unit development that would be established if the zoning change is granted.

The process means "there's going to be a lot of eyes on this," said Bruce Hanson, chairman of the planning and zoning commission.

But neighbors in the unincorporated Fairmeadow subdivision on the east side of the Nokia property said they wanted a thorough review of the northern site's suitability for housing now, not later.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The marshy area already poses drainage issues during heavy rains, so more houses could worsen the situation, neighbors said.

"We're trying to get you to stop going forward so that we don't have to come back with these issues. They're not going to change," nearby resident Candy Parkin Rubens said. "We're trying to be proactive in saying, 'Could you look at this more seriously?' before you think that some houses would fit back there."

The DuPage County Forest Preserve District also raised concerns in a letter to commissioners about damage to the ecosystems within Danada Forest Preserve that could result from new houses built nearby. Development could lead to encroachment, mowing, dumping, sump pump discharges and the creation of new informal paths from backyards onto preserve trails if adjacent housing is built, preserve officials wrote in a letter.

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