Glen Ellyn trustees give final approval to apartment project at center of lawsuit

  • Glen Ellyn trustees have approved plans for a five-story apartment complex in downtown, but opponents continue to fight against the project.

    Glen Ellyn trustees have approved plans for a five-story apartment complex in downtown, but opponents continue to fight against the project. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn

 
 
Updated 4/9/2019 6:52 PM

Glen Ellyn trustees have given final approval to plans for an apartment complex downtown, but a new lawsuit and organized opposition puts the project in limbo.

Attorneys last week filed the lawsuit in DuPage County Circuit Court on behalf of Hillside Avenue property owners and a nonprofit preservation group seeking to block construction of Apex 400, a 107-unit development on the site of the former Giesche Shoes store and a village-owned parking lot.

 

At five stories atop one of the highest points in downtown, the building would rise above Main Street, an out-of-character focal point that may belong in other suburbs but not a historic district, critics say.

The opposition has the support of high-profile residents such as Mike Formento, a former village president who acted as the master of ceremonies at a downtown rally Saturday organized by "Save Main," a group that's raised more than $13,500 through GoFundMe and distributed more than 400 front-yard signs against the project.

Formento and dozens of others maintained their resistance in packing a village board meeting Monday. Resident Ray Campbell urged trustees to delay the vote to let the decision fall to a new-look board to be seated in May.

"While I appreciate all the work that has been done both by this board, by staff and the developer, I certainly do not believe that this development fits into the historic character of downtown Glen Ellyn," he said. "We are not downtown Naperville and don't want to be."

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But officials said the board was only voting on whether the final planned unit development substantially conformed to the preliminary plans approved in January. With those parameters, Trustee Mark Senak was the lone "no vote" Monday.

Elicia Viola, a 28-year resident, said one of the most troubling aspects surrounding the project involved a "last-minute negotiation" between developers and the village at a January meeting to reduce the height of the two building corners fronting Main Street.

"At every meeting we were all met with responses that seemed a little bit dismissive and aloof with the exception of one trustee," she said. "There was no meaningful engagement and dialogue. Ultimately this hurts the project -- this hurts our village and now with a lawsuit it hurts our taxpayers. When you choose to repeatedly not engage and not to really listen to the perspective and the ideas of some very committed, impassioned and talented people, it's just wrong."

Village President Diane McGinley pushed back against that notion, expressing full confidence in village staff and the three attorneys who have represented the board through "this process." She told the crowd that officials are "bending over backward trying to listen and answer all of you."

"I have full faith that this village board has meet every requirement for any type of project such as what is before us," said McGinley, who cast a vote in support of the project.

The lawsuit, however, argues the village granted an "illegal and incomplete" special-use permit "following months of deception and obfuscation of plans."

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