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Deal nears for new housing in DeKalb

DeKALB – An annexation agreement for Irongate, a 1,000-plus unit housing development on the north side of DeKalb, could be reached as early as March, city officials said.

City Manager Mark Biernacki said that since a Jan. 29 special meeting on the topic, a lot of progress and compromise has been made between Irongate developer ShoDeen Construction, city staff, and DeKalb’s school and park districts.

“I’d characterize the plan being 90 percent – to the point where it meets all of the council’s objectives,” Biernacki said. “There will be some issues the council will be asked to amend their opinion on.”

A public hearing on Irongate is scheduled for today’s DeKalb City Council meeting. Annexation of any new housing developments requires the approval of at least six aldermen.

Despite some unresolved issues, Biernacki said he feels confident that the progress that has been made could lead to a first vote on the annexation at the council’s March 11 meeting.

“It’s conceivable that there could be final or formal action at one of the two meetings in March,” Biernacki said.

Plans for Irongate in November called for 1,053 single-family homes on lots ranging from 50 to 80 feet wide, a special housing development for senior citizens, and 248 townhouses.

The number of townhouses in the development has been a sticking point – aldermen are concerned that they will become rental properties. They want only 10 percent of the units in Irongate to be townhouses. The November plan called for 19 percent of the units to be townhouses.

ShoDeen President Dave Patzelt previously criticized the council for setting an arbitrary limit on the number of townhouses in Irongate, but city documents for tonight’s meeting state that the townhouse percentage has been dropped from 19 percent to 11.9 percent.

Biernacki said there’s also some resolution on the number of 50-foot-wide lots available. Aldermen wanted to reduce the number of those from 304 to 250; the revised plans for Monday call for 258 of these units.

But some issues remain. One stumbling block between Patzelt and the council was the extension of Normal Road from its current terminus at Dresser Road north to Bethany Road. The aldermen wanted Normal extended, but want no development along the extension near DeKalb High School. Patzelt opposed paying full cost for a road he cannot build on.

Biernacki said he’s forwarding a proposal in which ShoDeen would pay a smaller road impact fee to offset the costs of extending Normal.

Another unresolved issue is impact fees, which developers pay to governments to cover the estimated cost of providing new residents with public services such as roads, schools and parks. DeKalb’s development code spells out how impact fees are paid to the city, the school district and the park district.

Although the city would receive money, school and park district officials have indicated that they want to receive more land than cash, which is allowed under the ordinance.

The council shot down the idea to temporarily chop impact fees in half at the Jan. 29 meeting, which Patzelt wanted because that would reduce the overall cost of homes. Biernacki said there might be a consensus for a small reduction.

“There appeared to be a consensus on ... 33 percent reduction for the first 300 units [built in Irongate],” Biernacki said.

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