At the latest District 204 board meeting, several public speakers representing the South Homeowners of Wheatland requested the school board take a stance of opposition against the Wagner Farm development and other possible residential developments in areas previously zoned commercial.
“The first thing every plan commissioner asked the developer’s attorney was what’s the position of the school district. Their response was the school district doesn’t object, they’ve decided to be neutral. Our point in coming out is this is to tell you this is the time to get involved,” said Ari Rosenthall, a member of SHOW.
School board procedure is to not directly vote on whether or not to support projects. However the administration does give input as they meet with developers during the planning process.
“The administration will come to us in order to have us assess what’s going on. And in fact, in Naperville in particular, our superintendent sits on the Naperville development committee, so we’re continually in the process,” said Mike Raczak, president of the District 204 Board of Education.
These discussions will often cause a developer’s plans to change before they’re even seen by the public and discussed at the plan commission.
District 204 actually preferred single-family homes in the case of the Wagner Farm site, and wanted some retail to help reduce the amount of homes – though they didn’t get everything they wanted.
“When the developer and Naperville came to us and said ‘how about having a church?’ We thought that was better than just housing, though not as good as commercial property there,” said Raczak.
And even that process doesn’t guarantee 204 will give a thumbs up to a given development. The developer asked for a letter of support and they didn’t get one.
“Our stance was that we were not going to provide a letter of support. So we didn’t provide a letter of support or not support,” said Raczak. “We decided not to support by not giving a viewpoint, and we told the developer of that.”
But with no official word from 204, the plan commission is left asking the developer for the school’s opinion.
“The last conversation I had with the school district was that they were neutral on the project, from my perspective that’s what I would hope for. I can count the number on one hand the amount of times a school district would say we support a project, that doesn’t often happen,” said Russel Whitaker, partner of Rosanova & Whitaker Ltd. at the December 5 plan commission meeting.
Though there’s a process in place, some residents may be left wanting more.
Wagner Farm unanimously received a positive recommendation from the Naperville plan commission, but it needs approval from city council before construction can begin.
Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.
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