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South Elgin board approves River’s Edge plan

Drawing proposed River's Edge apartment building South Elgfor disabled income eligible residents. | Submitted

Drawing of proposed River's Edge apartment building in South Elgin for disabled and income eligible residents. | Submitted

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Updated: March 22, 2013 10:27AM

SOUTH ELGIN — On a 5-1 vote and in front of a packed house of residents speaking against the plan, the village board Tuesday night approved the controversial River’s Edge apartment building.

Construction is expected to begin this spring on the 50-unit building that will bring — on a 50-50 mix — units for residents with developmental disabilities and income-eligible renters.

Before the vote approving the development, Village President Jim Hansen told the 50-plus residents in the room that board members did hear their concerns but that they must look out for the needs of all residents, too.

“The amount of people (commenting), both pro and con, has been fantastic and that helps this whole process,” Hansen said. “We thank every resident involved with the planning commission meeting. Everybody involved has made this process better and this building … a better project.”

He also reminded residents that they were not the first to complain that a project would hurt the village’s character.

There were similar outcries by residents in recent years against the condo development at State and Gilbert streets, the Thornwood subdivision on the west side of Randall Road, and the big-box stores that located along that corridor, Hansen said.

“We even had people complaining about the high school” when South Elgin High was built, Hansen said.

Throughout the process of planning and zoning meetings and public comment, residents — many with homes adjacent to the property — said it was not the residents they were concerned about but the project’s location on the east side of the Fox River.

The non-profit Sterling-based Burton Foundation is working with the Association for Individual Development, which serves residents with developmental disabilities throughout the Fox Valley, to bring the apartment building to South Elgin. The 3.3-acre parcel is on the far end of Center Street, north of the South Elgin dam. Once completed, improvements to the area will include connecting Center Street to Robertson Road.

Several speakers Tuesday night said they were concerned about people with disabilities — particularly those with autism — living so close to the river.

Lynn O’Shea, director of AID, said the 24 two- and three-bedroom apartments set aside for AID clients and their case workers would mean housing for 30 South Elgin residents, all over the age of 18, who need housing.

“These are people who have the self-help skills to function in an apartment setting,” O’Shea said. Their clients will be screened for both that ability, and the ability to get along with a roommate, before moving in, she said.

Village trustees said they had to think about those residents in making their decisions.

“For at least half of these people, this is life-changing for them,” said Trustee John Sweet.

Trustee Mike Kolodziej was the only board member who voted against the project, saying he was disappointed that a question he asked the Burton Foundation two weeks ago was not fully answered. While Tracey Manning, executive director of the Burton Foundation, said there had only been a handful of police calls to their other properties, there was only in the last year.

Kolodziej and the residents against the project had found newspaper stories indicating many more police calls to Burton Foundation properties in Decatur.

Those problems have since been remedied, Manning said.

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