Geneva delays vote on Emma's Landing townhouse proposal

The Geneva City Council has postponed a vote on the controversial Emma's Landing townhouse development, saying it wants more information on several topics, including plans for handling stormwater drainage.

A March 8 vote is scheduled on the plan, which has been criticized by neighbors in the adjacent Sterling Manor neighborhood.

The Burton Foundation proposes to build townhouses on a 7.5-acre site on a cul-de-sac to be built off Lewis Road, south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. It would have 15 two-bedroom homes and 30 three-bedroom homes.

At least 27 units would be rented to people making less than 60% of the average median income for the Geneva area, according to city documents.

The Burton Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation that owns about a dozen developments in the Midwest that are financed with low-income housing tax credits, the documents say.

When Sterling Manor was developed in 1991, the site was turned over to the city as a location for a water treatment plant. The city built the plant elsewhere.

The 1991 development agreement said that up to 100 attached single-family units could be built in Sterling Manor overall, including on that site. The neighborhood has 100 such homes.

The city tried to sell the land in 2013, but there were no takers. It advertised it again in 2019 and said it was especially interested in proposals for affordable housing. The Burton Foundation submitted the only proposal.

Sterling Manor residents reiterated Monday, as they have for nearly a year, that they are worried the townhouse development will exacerbate flooding problems in their neighborhood, as open land will be covered with buildings and streets. Several residents also told the city council they are concerned about losing property value due to proximity to an affordable-housing development.

The plan calls for much of the stormwater drainage to go to a detention pond to be built on the Emma's Landing site. Water from that pond could then flow to a detention pond in Sterling Manor. That pond drains into the city's stormwater sewer system.

Sterling Manor residents questioned why their pond has to be involved and have hired a lawyer to investigate whether that's allowed.

The developer's engineer said the new pond should slow down water coming off the site, which now naturally drains mostly to Sterling Manor. He also said a second pond would be added.

And, Monday night, the developer proposed connecting the main Emma's Landing pond directly to the city stormwater sewer system, downstream of Sterling Manor. Alderman Dean Kilburg asked if that would cause backups in Sterling Manor.

Other issues to be addressed include a request from some aldermen to install a safety fence along the north side of the property between the site and the railroad tracks, and more information about how the development will affect traffic on Lewis Road.

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This schematic design shows a four-unit townhouse "pod" proposed as part of the Emma's Landing affordable-housing townhouse development. Courtesy of the city of Geneva
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