St. Charles commission recommends not relaxing 1st Street occupancy rules
The St. Charles plan commission voted 5-1 on Tuesday to recommend not relaxing restrictions on the types of businesses allowed to occupy the first floor of buildings in the 1st Street development zone.
Chairman Todd Wallace was the lone commission member to support the request by First Street Development LLC and First Street Development II LLC to ease guidelines put in place 15 years ago that limit the first-floor square footage allowed for banks and offices in addition to service businesses such as salons and fitness centers.
After a lengthy discussion that included St. Charles Business Alliance President Chris Woelffer and local developer Curt Hurst speaking out against relaxing the regulations, the request will go to the city council planning and zoning committee for discussion.
William Bochte, representing First Street Development, said during Tuesday's meeting his group did not want special treatment. He said they simply wanted to operate under the same guidelines as elsewhere in downtown St. Charles.
The regulations for the 1st Street development zone impact a handful of buildings and some undeveloped land in a 7.6-acre area along 1st Street between Prairie Street and Main Street. Bochte argued the restrictions -- including a 25% square footage cap for banks, offices, investment institutions, salons, fitness centers and cultural facilities -- limit the opportunities to rent in the development zone at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic already has made it difficult to find tenants.
"We'd love to bring retail in there," Bochte said. "But until that retail comes along, we've got mortgage payments to make."
St. Charles Business Association Executive Director Jenna Sawicki wrote a letter to Wallace detailing the reasons why the organization is against easing the restrictions in the 1st Street development zone.
"(Easing restrictions) may be detrimental to our town, as these types of businesses do not drive people to come shop, dine or engage in the community, particularly during evening hours and on weekends," she wrote. "To have no cap on how many offices can be placed on the first floor of our downtown businesses could make for a totally desolate downtown."
In 2013, the city eased first-floor regulations to encourage occupancy elsewhere downtown. The request from First Street Development would align with those guidelines.
"I do feel like there is discrimination going on here," Wallace said. "Not as a result of any overt act of the city or anything like that. It's just because circumstances have changed."