Wheaton City Council members Monday voted to approve a proposal to build a 167-unit senior housing facility in downtown Wheaton.
Council members voted 4-3 in favor of requests to amend the Courthouse Redevelopment Project Area Plan and Program and allow construction of a senior housing development instead of a previously approved condo building. The Council vote overrode a 6-1 vote recommending against approval from the Planning and Zoning Board.
After four months of hearings on developer Focus Development's proposal, Wheaton's Planning and Zoning Board in August voted voted 6-1 to recommend against Council approval of the request.
Courthouse Land Development requested approval of a special use permit to build a six-story, 167-unit senior housing development at Courthouse Square, where developers originally planned to finish a condo development. The project remains incomplete as a result of the housing market crash in 2008.
Council members Tom Mouhelis, Evelyn Pacino-Sanguinetti and Todd Scalzo voted against the project. Mayor Mike Gresk and council members Jeanne Ives, John Rutledge and Phil Suess voted in favor of the proposal.
Gresk said the proposed development would be an "immediate solution" to the unfinished development and a "boom" for the community. "I'm supporting it because it's to the betterment of Wheaton," he said.
Suess said ultimately, the developer is the owner of the property, and it's not the council's role to decide what should or should not happen there.
"We are in a free market, enterprise system. We need to respect property rights... Where government gets in touble is where we try to impose solutions on projects," he said.
Mouhelis said he opposes the project because it's not what buyers were promised when they bought into the Courthouse Square development when it originally included condos and townhomes, not senior housing.
Scalzo said he opposed the project because it did not comply with the city's zoning code. "I think it's essential to enforce the zoning code... I think to set aside (planning and zoning) board recommendations opens us to accusations of arbitrariness," he said.
He said he understands the developer is looking for relief, and thinks the city has an obligation to "stay the course" to protect residents.
Ives said she was originally against the development when it was approved in 2005 because—in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, it made taxpayers investors.
After a failed project, Ives said she applauds Focus Development for not "running away," but spending time to modify its original plan to create a better one.
She added, the completion of Courthouse Square adds "certainty" to downtown Wheaton.
Patch will provide an update to this story Tuesday morning.
Other Courthouse Square articles on Patch:
- Zoning Board Votes 6-1 Against Senior Housing Proposal for Courthouse Square
- Homeowner: Senior Housing at Courthouse Square Would be "Inappropriate" Use of Space (Resident's letter to the editor)
- Wheaton Officials Agree Developer Can Build Senior Housing at Courthouse Square
- Wheaton Zoning Board to Revisit Senior Housing Proposal at Courthouse Square
- Wheaton Zoning Board to Consider Proposal for Senior Housing at Courthouse Square
- Courthouse Square Residents Oppose Possible Senior Center
- Courthouse Square—Change in Plans? (Former city councilman writes about development proposal)