Controversial townhouse plan moves forward in Wheeling

  • A plan to build townhouses on vacant land at Prairie Park in Wheeling is moving forward.

    A plan to build townhouses on vacant land at Prairie Park in Wheeling is moving forward. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Townhouses are proposed for the Prairie Park condominium complex in Wheeling.

    Townhouses are proposed for the Prairie Park condominium complex in Wheeling. Rendering Courtesy of Village of Wheeling

 
 
Updated 9/24/2021 11:12 AM

A controversial request to build townhouses at Wheeling's Prairie Park condominium complex narrowly cleared an important bureaucratic hurdle this week.

Wheeling's plan commission, which advises the village board on community development issues, voted 3-2 to recommend the board amend Prairie Park's existing development plan to include the proposed townhouses.

 

The board could approve or reject the request when it meets Oct. 4.

The townhouse plan is being pushed by Smith Family Development, the outfit behind Prairie Park. The company's Mark Smith unsuccessfully ran for mayor earlier this year, losing to incumbent Pat Horcher in a heated contest.

Located west of Milwaukee Avenue off Wolf Road, Prairie Park has four condominium buildings. A promised fifth building never was constructed, and the townhouses would go up in its place.

Six, two-story townhouse buildings with 18 total units are planned.

Residents of Prairie Park have publicly supported and opposed the plan. None spoke up at Wednesday's meeting, but critics could be found on the dais.

Chief among them was Michael Sprague, who asked why project elements that previously had been questioned by the panel -- including building materials and fencing -- weren't addressed in the latest version of the plan.

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Commission Chair Donald Johnson took a similar stance, asking Smith Family Development attorney Dan Shapiro why developers pushed to get the plan on the evening's agenda even though some issues hadn't been resolved.

Shapiro called those issues "minor adjustments" that easily can be addressed.

"I'm trying to get this client in the ground this fall," Shapiro said.

Shapiro went on to ask commissioners to use "reasonable common and practical sense" and not to hold up the project.

"I'm not trying to pick a fight," Shapiro said. "I'm trying to express the urgency here."

But that didn't sway Johnson.

"You keep saying these are simple changes, but why weren't they done?" he asked.

When it came time to make a recommendation, commissioners Tatiana Blinova, Martin Berke and Gerald Riles voted for the plan with some development-related conditions, while Sprague and Johnson voted against it.

Commissioners Robert Yedinak and Rick Hyken abstained from the discussion and vote.

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