By Bob Balgemann


Northpointe Development, Inc., LLC was hoping to begin the process of building a 64-unit apartment building on 5.27 vacant acres in the northeast portion of the Machesney Town Center, west of North Second Street (Illinois 251) and just north of Roosevelt Road.

But that didn’t happen. The planning and zoning commission, in two 5-2 votes on Feb. 22, recommended denial of two requests. Rather than continue before the planning and economic development committee on March 1, the developer has withdrawn its requests for the following:

1. A zoning map amendment from commercial general (CG) to multi-family residential district (R-4), to accommodate the one, two and three-bedroom project.

2. A special use permit for the multi-family residential, planned unit development (PUD).

Earlier, the village’s planning staff recommended approval of both requests.

Concerning the zoning map amendment staff, led by Planning and Zoning Manager Carrie Houston, initially determined the proposal met one of two criteria needed for approval.

It did not meet the second finding, which stated, “Will this zoning map amendment protect the character and stability of the residential, business and industrial areas within the village, and to promote the orderly and beneficial development of such areas?

Here was the staff analysis of that finding: “Even though multi-family land uses are ideal as a transition between commercial developments and single-family housing, the (village) comprehensive plan prescribes for ‘mixed use/lifestyle center’ at the town center and this developer is not proposing a lifestyle center.

“Rezoning this vacant northeast corner of the Town Center to a residential zoning district makes sense, but is inconsistent with Figure 5 of the village’s comprehensive plan, which shows a Machesney Park conceptual development plan for the former (Machesney Park) mall.

“This concept plan is a vision that was not always adhered to when making land use decisions in this town center area. However, it does illustrate single-story duplexes along this north end of the property, rather than the dense, multi-family that is now proposed.”

Despite that, staff said this, “Although it does not meet the second finding, due to the comprehensive plan suggesting less dense residential on the property, staff does recommend approval of the zoning map amendment to the R-4 District.”

But P&Z and residents who turned out for the meeting, held at the Practice Velocity complex in back of the town center, didn’t agree.

Special use

The special use portion of the request was required because according to Section Z-95 of the Village Zoning Code, multi-family developments larger than eight units only are allowed with approval of a special use permit for a multi-family planning unit development (PUD). This project calls for the 64 apartments to be: 31 one-bedroom, 17 two-bedroom and 19 three-bedroom, which adds up to 67.

Northpointe is proposing a workforce housing project and is applying to the state for tax credits in exchange for rent caps. Workforce housing is described online as “…housing that is affordable to workers and close to their jobs.” It is thought of “as housing for public employees, – teachers, police officers, firefighters and others – who are integral to community, yet who often cannot afford to live in the communities they serve.”

Zoning and land uses of property surrounding the proposed 5.27-acre PUD are: North, R-1, single-family residential, existing residences; South, CG, commercial general, with restaurants and vacant commercial land; East, CG, with computer service/office; and West, CG, parking lot and vacant commercial land.

According to the village code, six criteria must be met for a special use permit to be granted. Those criteria primarily deal with the impact a requested use would have on the immediate area and vicinity.

The Northpointe request met all six, according to staff.

Further, there are five purposes of multi-family PUDs as stated in Section Z-95 of the village zoning code. They are:

* Secure high-quality developments that protect environmentally sensitive areas by capitalizing on special site characteristics, locations and uses.

* Encourage multi-family residential projects that complement the unique architectural styles and development patterns defined by nearby and surrounding neighborhoods.

* Ensure creation and enhancement of friendly, safe and welcoming residential development projects.

* Provide higher standards of living for residents in Machesney Park.

* Establish neighborhoods that enhance the livability of the community by providing places for social interaction and recreation.

Staff stated it believed the proposed Northpointe development met all of those prescribed purposes.

“This would be a quality residential development at the perimeter of a commercial area, which has not had interest from commercial developers,” the staff report stated. “This is an example of the type of infill development communities strive for. Furthermore, the building itself meets the village’s multi-family design standards by providing pedestrian circulation and the required exterior materials, windows and articulation.”

Traffic; variances

The report states further that a traffic impact study was completed for the proposed PUD and showed future traffic volumes would be minimally impacted by the development.

“Some intersections would not experience higher volumes at all,” the report continued, “but the highest increase in traffic movement would be vehicles traveling east-to-west through the three-way stop at Copper Drive and the North Second Street frontage road.”

Staff recommended approval of the special use for a PUD that included some variances.

It was explained that the development did not comply with all of the village standards for a multi-family PUD. That said, variances would be needed from standards relating to the number of garage stalls, the length of the building and timing of construction.

Five of the six criteria needed for such variances to be approved were met, staff stated.


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