Position on Heritage Place to be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission

ECHO is a group of residents whose purpose is to preserve the residential community atmosphere and character of our neighborhood. Further, ECHO supports the promotion and protection of the historical properties within its boundaries. The officially designated Naperville Historic District lies within the boundaries of ECHO. This District has special legal protections, designed to ensure its continuance as an historic neighborhood.

We do not support the conditional use for townhomes in the R2 zoning district. We also do not support the variance requests for lot area, front yard setback, and height to exceed the maximum number of stories.

ECHO distributed a survey in mid-August to seek feedback from our residents regarding this development proposal and what they value most about living in or near the Historic District. 94% of those responding do not support this development as proposed.

Survey respondents support the inclusion of a park and green space. The park provided within this development would be significantly larger than the former College Park, which was removed from the site earlier this year. The respondents also support the rear-loading garages of the townhome units, which are in keeping with the character of our neighborhood.

The most significant concerns from our residents are density and the proposal not fitting in with the neighborhood. The clear preference from our residents is to have single-family homes built on this site, which exists in the heart of a predominantly single-family neighborhood. The proposed density, when combined with reduced setbacks, are not in keeping with the character of the Historic District and the greater ECHO neighborhood.

In making the case for the conditional use and zoning variances, the petitioner repeatedly cites the current intense use of the property in comparison to the proposed use as the primary factor why the standards for a zoning variance are met. While the proposed use of the property would be less intense than the current use in terms of traffic and number of persons typically onsite, it does not necessarily follow that the proposed redevelopment will not be a substantial detriment to adjacent property. 39-foot buildings with reduced front yard setbacks are a substantial change from the current site conditions and are intense in their own right. The present peak use of this site is limited to a few hours each weekday during pickup and drop-off periods. Conversion to a high-density residential use makes the site more active during times when it is currently unoccupied.

Minimum lot area is effectively the density requirement for the R2 zoning district. The original plan submission with 47 units consisted of 12.4 units per acre. The most recent change with the reduction of two units barely reduces this, to 11.9 units per acre. City planning documents generally consider low-density residential to be less than 2.5 units per acre, and high-density residential to be more than eight units per acre. As noted in the City staff report for the HPC meeting, decreasing the number of townhome units to 41 would eliminate the need for this variance request.

Front yard setbacks vary throughout the Historic District. However, the vast majority of the homes throughout the District are in compliance with the 25-foot front yard setback and the 15-foot corner side yard setback. There are very few examples of reduced setbacks in the blocks surrounding this property. Homes with front yard setbacks less than 25 feet are much more common on the blocks to the west of North Central College, including those along Center and Ellsworth Streets.

Finally, the petitioner makes their argument for the height variance based on other developments which have come to market with rooftop decks. The zoning code defines practical difficulties or hardships as those not generally found on other properties within the zoning district. Zoning variances are typically granted when there is a hardship related to existing conditions on the lot. To put it simply, competitive disadvantage is not a zoning-related hardship.

60% of our residents indicated that their top reason for choosing to live in or near the Historic District is for the look and feel of the neighborhood. If this development proposal is not economically viable with units reduced and setbacks compliant with zoning code, ECHO submits that the demolition of Kroehler Mansion may be a better long-term solution for preserving the character of the neighborhood while permitting respectful new construction.

We appreciate the communication from the attorney for the petitioner, and we thank the Planning and Zoning Commission for its time and service to the community.