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Zoning Board to Deliberate Aug. 28 on Courthouse Square Senior Housing Proposal

Supporters and opponents of a proposed senior housing development at Courthouse Square in Wheaton will present closing arguments at a zoning board meeting Tuesday night. Patch will be there to blog about the arguments and board deliberations.

Wheaton's planning and zoning board will continue a public hearing on the proposal to build a senior housing development at Courthouse Square in downtown Wheaton on Tuesday, Aug. 28. The board will deliberate after hearing from attorneys representing the developer and opponents of the project Tuesday night.

Courthouse Land Development, LLC is proposing to construct 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.

Tonight, after three months of public hearings on the issue, attorneys for the applicant and objecting residents will present their closing arguments to the zoning board.

Board members will begin deliberations after closing arguments.

Patch will be at the hearing, live blogging during closing arguments and comments from commissioners. The meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday at , 303 W. Wesley St., Wheaton.

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Need background? Here’s what’s happening:

To get the green light on the project, Courthouse Land Development needs City Council to approve a change to the planned unit development (PUD) approved in 2004 for the condos and townhomes, to allow construction of a senior housing facility.

Wheaton officials in 2004 originally approved a PUD for the development of Courthouse Square, for the construction of 50 townhomes and 206 condos in four buildings. The city agreed to provide TIF assistance to the developer.

The project was put on hold in 2008 when the housing market collapsed. To date, one building has been built to contain 50 units, the old courthouse building contains six units and 11 townhomes have been constructed.

Courthouse Land Development is now proposing to construct a six-story, 167-unit senior housing development, which would be managed by Parkside Management Services. The development would include:

  • 55 independent living units
  • 84 assisted living units
  • 28 memory care units

Wheaton City Council to recommend the allowance of senior housing as a permitted use in the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district where Courthouse Square is located.

Councilman Todd Scalzo said at the meeting he thinks current Courthouse Square residents should understand Council’s recommendation does not expand nor limit the developer’s rights.

“The question tonight is, ‘Can this be done?’… And the answer to that is, ‘Yes,’” he said. “It does not answer the ultimate question which is, ‘Should it be done?’”

Councilman Tom Mouhelis and Councilwoman Evelyn Pacino-Sanguinetti voted against the recommendation.

Based on evidence and arguments presented in the hearings, the zoning board will make a final recommendation to City Council.

Who’s who? Here are some of the key players:

Courthouse Land Development, LLC is the applicant proposing to build a senior housing development at Courthouse Square.

Focus Development is the development firm associated with Courthouse Land Development. Tim Anderson, is the president and owner, who said at a past hearing that the current condominium market would not support further condo development. He said traditional construction loans are less available as a result of the financial crisis, and that senior housing would be "marketable and financeable."

Parkside Management Services is the company that would manage the facility. Michael McCarthy, Chairman and CEO, said at a past hearing that the senior population in Wheaton is growing. He said 11 percent of Wheaton's population is 65 and older.

Joe Antunovich of architecture firm Antunovich Associates said the new building would include storage lockers, a wellness center cafe, fitness center and beauty salon on the ground floor.

Michael Werthmann of Kenig, Lindgren, O'Hara, Aboona, Inc. (KLOA) said at the April 24 hearing that a traffic analysis indicated there would be a decrease in peak traffic volumes as a result of the senior housing development plan.

Wheaton's planning and zoning board includes Chair Laura Christensen and commissioners Scott Shorney, Scott Weller, Pat Schwarze, Suzanne Fitch, Chris Derrick and Mark Sargis.

City Council members Evelyn Pacino-Sanguinetti and Tom Mouhelis voted against the recommendation to allow senior housing as a permitted use.

City staff involved at zoning hearings includes Staff Planner Tracy Jones and Director of Economic Development, Jim Kozik.

Attorneys:

  • James Knippen is the attorney for the City of Wheaton. He has been overseeing the Courthouse Square hearings. 
  • Tracy Kasson and Hank Stillwell represent the applicant (Courthouse Land Development, LLC).
  • Phil Luetkehans represents some residents who object to the development proposal.

Some residents who have spoken at hearings include:

  • Randy Nickell has spoken at hearings and wrote a regarding the proposal. He wrote that senior housing at Courthouse Square would be an "inappropriate" use of space. (Send letters to the editor to Charlotte@Patch.com)
  • Katie Markshausen is a realtor, who said at the July 10 that in her experience, buyers have dropped the option to buy at Courthouse Square upon hearing of the proposed senior housing development because of the uncertainty of the property's future. "They don't want any part of it," she said. "Because real estate is an investment. ... A buyer is even more hesitant in investing if they are not aware of that investment."
  • Renee Bambule is a resident who has worked in healthcare for 21 years. She said a senior housing center at Courthouse Square would not be fair to seniors because of the limited space. While downtown Wheaton and the Prairie Path are nearby, they are busy and potentially unsafe for seniors.
  • Sharon Brockmeier is a registered nurse, who said there is no accurate estimate for how many people will have housekeeping responsibilities at the facility, as some residents could hire their own caregivers.

Other Courthouse Square articles on Patch:

  • (Resident's letter to the editor)
  • (Former city councilman writes about development plans)

What do you think of the proposal? Vote in our poll below!

John Mihas August 14, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Sad that residents will have to take a hit. City wants to save itself, along with Focus and Airhart from there poor planning. Its all about $$$$$.
Norman Brockmeier August 15, 2012 at 11:34 PM
This issue is by FAR the most controversial one before the P&Z Board in the last 30 years. A careful study of the developer's request makes it clear that the developer wants to build a nursing facility on a "postage stamp site", rescuing the developer with little regard for its negative effects on the taxpaying citizens of Wheaton.
Wheaton Watcher August 16, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Boy, I don't understand the objections to this project at all. The condo project will never be completed, as the real estate market will continue to be in shambles for years to come. I think this a great "repurposing" of the site, Better this property on the tax roles and drawing people (consumers) to Wheaton than looking at a big gaping hole in the ground for the next 10 years.
Blake Williams August 17, 2012 at 01:10 PM
With the very high density appartments across the tracks, the senior facility, and potentially two assisted living units kiddie corner to us, we are vastly changing our traffic, potential crime, and vehicle congestion. The 4 blocks right behind the library have been suffering at the whim of a couple churches and city for years. I see a vast increase already in the tax rolls (the 200 block of franklin has 4 new homes in the last 2 years.) Yet I see NO set aside for park space in the already underserved northside. We finally have a block of kids for our children to play with and now Scott Street will be even more dangerous.
Norman Brockmeier August 26, 2012 at 07:49 PM
In order to understand the many objections, one would have had to be present at the hearings. This is essentially a developer asking for a "bail out" that provides NO guarantees to the RE tax increment (TIF) hoped for Wheaton!

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