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Residents turn out to oppose South Elgin housing proposal

11/14/2012  South Elgin
Joe Cluchey Fire Chief South ElgFire Department points out an areprint out where proposed new BurtFoundatiliving center

11/14/2012 South Elgin Joe Cluchey, Fire Chief South Elgin Fire Department, points out an area on a print out, where the proposed new Burton Foundation living center would be located during Village of South Elgin Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting at Kenyon Woods Middle School on Wednesday, November 14, 2012. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 19, 2012 12:32PM

SOUTH ELGIN — Residents who turned out en mass at a public hearing this week said it is not that they are opposed to an apartment building for disabled adults and low-income working families located in the village — just where it would be located.

The South Elgin Planning and Zoning Commission held its monthly meeting Wednesday night at Kenyon Woods Middle School to accommodate the large crowd expected. About 85 residents attended — some for but most to speak against the proposed building.

The Sterling-based Burton Foundation — a non-profit group which constructs affordable housing apartments — has partnered with the Association for Individual Development to bring the apartment building to South Elgin.

The proposed 50-unit apartment development on the east side of the Fox River at the north end of Center Street would include one-, two- and three-bedroom units for people with disabilities. Half are set aside for disabled residents, with the balance of units for income-eligible residents, officials said.

Waiting list

According to AID President Lynn O’Shea, there are currently 47 disabled South Elgin residents on a state waiting list for housing supports. Across Kane County, there are another 1,100 disabled residents seeking a home, she said.

It is the Burton Foundation’s goal to provide “safe, nice, affordable housing for individuals who cannot afford market rate, high end apartments,” while still creating that feel for residents, said Tracey Manning of the Burton Foundation.

The proposed building was designed by South Elgin firm Allen Pepa Architects. Eric Pepa said the building “is designed to be a modern building, safe and affordable for the community in this area.”

Plans include common areas for residents to hold small gatherings and parties, a workout and recreation room, a gazebo for residents to enjoy the river view, and a fenced-in toddler play area.

An enclosed bicycle storage area was also included. The 3-acre site is near the Fox River walking and biking trail, which runs on the river side and to the north of the proposed complex.

Most of their clients work, O’Shea said, but are unable to drive due to their disabilities. Many of those clients bike to work and elsewhere, she said.

The building also is designed with a covered drop off area. Many of their clients use the Ride in Kane bus service — supported in part by the village, PACE and RTA — O’Shea said.

Although most of their clients do not drive, parking was provided for them, she said.

Opponents of the plan questioned if the four handicapped parking spots provided at the site would be enough, considering the residents’ disabilities.

Half of the units are designed for residents on lower incomes. They are not Section 8 apartments, however.

“Our target market is the working class, gainfully employed that can afford $700, $850 and $1,085 for a three-bedroom. They still require residents who are employed and pay their bills,” Pepa said.

Petitions oppose

Residents speaking against the plan complained that the apartment complex did not fit in with the village’s 2007 master downtown plan, which calls for retail/restaurants, townhomes or condominiums, not apartment, in that area.

Steve Super, South Elgin, director of community development, said apartments fit with the condominium designation.

Don Means, one resident who has organized opposition to the apartments, presented the commission with a 938-signature petition, asking them to reject the plan.

“This is not NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard,” Means said. “This is not their backyard, this is their village center.”

Kane County board member Mike Kenyon, R-South Elgin, also spoke, questioning the location.

“Why was this site selected? There is no grocery store, no restaurants, and the bus stop is eight block away,” Kenyon said.

While Burton Foundation officials said they do credit and criminal background checks on all residents, “is there any way to guarantee social compatibility?” from those residents, Kenyon asked.

“People are frightened. It is a new concept, we don’t want to shut people out. We just want questions answered,” he said.

Several changes to the original plan, requested by the South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District, meant not all final plans were submitted in time for the meeting, said Brian Carlson, commission chair. The public hearing was continued to 7 p.m., Dec. 19. The second hearing is again set for Kenyon Woods Middle School.

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