Planners cool to senior living facility in south Naperville

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

Naperville’s Planning and Zoning Commission has left open the public hearing on a proposed senior living facility in Naperville Crossings, but a unanimous straw vote against the project didn’t leave the petitioner with much hope.

“You’ve got considerable local, public dissent,” Commissioner Sean Hastings told the petitioner at the commission’s meeting on Wednesday night.

Indeed, about 25 people from south Naperville showed up to urge the commission to turn thumbs-down on giving the plan a positive recommendation to take to the full City Council.

At issue is granting a zoning change to allow Formation Shelbourne Senior Living Services to build a 74,798-square-foot nursing home with 104 beds offering both assisted living and memory care services on a site near Route 59 and 95th Street.

The petitioner also sought a conditional use permit to fit the project into what the city has determined should be a space devoted to mixed-use commercial/retail office and medium density residential.

Often city staff endorses petitioner requests, but it balked on this one, advising against granting the conditional use, its report stating “it is not consistent with the trend of development in the surrounding area.”

Among the goals of the city’s Southwest Community Area Plan is to create a distinctive destination that is tantamount to a downtown Naperville in the south area of the city.

Toward that end, a set of design principles that include “facing” commercial frontages, pedestrian-oriented streets, amenities conducive to facilitate public gathering, avoiding free-standing buildings surrounded by parking and the creation of interactive areas has been guiding development in the development that sits on the northwest corner of Route 59 and 95th Street.

Arguing for the petitioner, Attorney Leonard Monson argued that the original plan for the site was created in 2004, and highlighted several exceptions to the design principles that had been granted by the city in subsequent development of the area.

Moreover, Monson argued, the site was less than ideal for commercial development for several reasons, including the lack of parking and no direct access or exposure on Route 59.

“I believe this is a very poor commercial property,” he said.

The petitioner pled his case to the commission.

“This is exactly the type of location we seek out,” Mark Maberry, vice president of Formation Shelbourne Senior Living Services, said.

But the neighbors, mainly from Wheatland Township, were on board with the city’s vision.

“We do not support the concept being placed in Naperville Crossing,” Kamala Martinez, said speaking for the resident group, arguing that the site was “ripe and ready for the retail destination it was meant to be.”

Martinez raised the specter of rapidly growing Plainfield to the south and warned that Naperville could lose the retail business to its neighbor.

Maberry argued that the residents of the proposed facility would be from an upscale demographic and actually provide steady customers for retail outlets.

Regarding the general consensus of staff and neighbors that the proposed facility was not appropriate for the site, Maberry said, “I respectfully disagree with that.”

But taking a straw vote, commissioners unanimously opposed granting the conditional use permit or changing the code, and gave no indication that any of them might change their minds, although Kevin Coyne said he might be open to another finding if the petitioner could show evidence of support from residents or nearby businesses.

The public hearing was left open until June 4 because the petitioner had also sought a deviation from outdoor space requirements and a sign deviation, and the commission wanted to be fair to the petitioner.

But Commissioners Sean Hastings, Patricia Meyer and Tim Messer voted against keeping the public meeting open, all of them indicting that the proposal was unacceptable on the site, which made the point moot.

“The land use trumps the rest,”Hastings said.