The tides have changed in the debate over the proposed Water Street Development.
At their latest meeting, the city council spent two hours deliberating on whether to bring the water street development – what they call a major game-changer – back to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“We give plan commission the ability to scrutinize this once again for height, for right of ways, variances, things like that,” said Councilman Grant Wehrli. “But more and probably most importantly to me, we allow the public, free and clear of any time constraints to opine on a project that we will forever live with.”
That project would rest on 2.4 acres along the DuPage River and include a 101-room Holiday Inn Express, standing 74 feet tall, exceeding a 60-foot limit in the city’s municipal code.
Another building across Webster Street would contain 76 additional hotel rooms, with a pedestrian bridge connecting the two buildings. Other aspects consist of offices, restaurants, retailers, a theatre building and a 580-space parking garage.
With such a large scope and a potentially immense impact on the city’s beloved Riverwalk and downtown, both the council and residents want a project that the community can embrace. But this proposal doesn’t seem to be it.
“I feel that to date there are way too many unanswered questions regarding the petitioner’s plans, tenants, necessary municipal code variances, etcetera for the council to make an informed decision tonight,” said Naperville resident Paula Dulli.
“Prepare a plan that is in compliance with all of our rules and regulations,” said Mike Glesnik, also a Naperville resident. “Stop all this variance stuff. Stop all these new plans. Vote no on this thing.”
Rather than making a decision either way, the council voted five to four in favor of returning the proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as bringing it before the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB).
“It needs to be done right,” said Wehrli. “It needs to be done right by the developer. It needs to be done right by the people who live here now and will come after us because if we get it wrong, there’s no eraser for this thing.”
Others weren’t so thrilled with that approach.
“I think it is really important to come up with one coherent plan so that we know what we’re talking about but I don’t think it needs to go back to the planning commission to do that,” said Councilman Joe McElroy.
“We do want to get it right but we don’t want to chase people away and certainly we are at risk at sending the wrong message to the investment community,” said Councilman Steve Chirico.
Attorney Kathy West who represents the developer, Marquette Companies, finds the decision to be disconcerting.
“We’re being punished because we’re trying to meet all of the varying opinions we’ve had from council. ‘Ok, now we’ve heard you, now we’re going to send you back to plan commission and TAB’ We’re only trying to respond to what you’ve been telling us over the last few weeks. So to that extent it’s frustrating to us.”
The council expects the Planning and Zoning commission to review the latest Water Street proposal at their second meeting in January.
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