Council to hear Water Street plan in January
By Hank Beckman For The Sun December 18, 2012 9:38PM
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:33AM
By a 6-3 vote Tuesday night, the Naperville City Council reversed its Dec. 5 decision to send the controversial Water Street project back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.
Nick Ryan, Marquette Properties president, said a new plan was in the works in making his case to the City Council.
Ryan didn’t say what changes to the project would satisfy those concerned about height, density, parking and traffic, only promising that the new plan would be “widely accepted by you.”
Councilman Bob Fieseler made the motion to reconsider, but warned the developer that, given the crucial time element, “the petitioner must understand that what it presents in January better be definitive and it better be right … if it’s not approved, they’ve lost a month.”
The project was first proposed in 2007 as a smaller project with a boutique hotel and condominium residences, but the real estate crash and subsequent recession squashed the project until it was resurrected in 2011 as a much bigger development.
The 2012 proposal, on a site south of the DuPage River along Water Street, included a hotel, 550-space parking deck, 61 apartment residences and 75,000 square feet of restaurant/retail/office space.
The plan originally included a hotel building with a height of 80 feet, which was met with stiff opposition from Council members and residents, especially the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation.
But even after reducing the hotel by an entire floor and adding 30 parking spaces, questions about density and potential parking and traffic problems dogged the project.
City Councilman Grant Wehrli has consistently opposed the development, saying the hotel was too tall and the overall project too dense. He saw no reason to keep it before City Council without first giving it a makeover by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“As a community we’ve done thoughtful development for decades,” he said. “We’ve always followed a process.”
Wehrli said that he’d spoken to Planning and Zoning Comission members who told him that they’d already looked at the project and asked: “What else do you want us to do?”
Wehrli also stressed that the commission had an obligation to not only look at land use issues, but also to “provide a free and open venue” on various issues it took up.
City Councilman Steve Chirico disagreed.
“The process was followed,” he said. “This project has gone to Planning and Zoning twice.”
Chirico stressed that the project was one that was already well known to the Council.
“We already know the concept of this facility,” he said. “It’s not like we’re starting from the beginning.”
But Councilman Doug Krause agreed with Wehrli, noting that the plan commission hadn’t seen the revised plan.
Krause also suggested a public forum on the development and making an effort to get the Naperville Transportation and Advisory Board involved.
Councilman Kenn Miller stressed that the developer had made several changes to the proposal to accommodate the concerns of both the public and City Council and disagreed that the development had not been adequately scrutinized.
“I disagree with the statement that it hasn’t been vetted,” he said.
Councilwoman Judith Brodhead’s concern was that the developer wouldn’t have enough time to prepare a new proposal, but was positive about the project.
“I see this project as getting closer,” she said.
Councilman Joe McElroy reminded everyone that the developer owned the parcel between the DuPage River and Aurora Avenue.
“Let’s remember that we’re talking about privately owned property,” he said.
In the end, Councilman Paul Hinterlong joined Krause and Wehrli in voting to stick with the Council’s previous decision to send it back to the Planning and Zoning Commission, but the trio were outvoted by their colleagues.
The item will be taken up at the Council’s Jan. 15 meeting, but as to exactly what changes will be made to the plan that will satisfy opposition, the petitioner could not say.
“We don’t have a final solution,” Ryan said as he left the Council Chambers, only promising again to present a plan that will satisfy the City Council.