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Government Local

Irongate faces precarious future

DeKALB – The future of ShoDeen Construction’s new Irongate development hinges on a single vote from the DeKalb City Council.

Alderwomen Kristen Lash and Monica O’Leary, of the 3rd and 7th wards respectively, have said they will oppose the annexation agreement with ShoDeen, regardless of whether company President Dave Patzelt adheres to the council’s wishes in his plan for the roughly 1,000-home development near DeKalb High School.

Annexation agreements require a supermajority – or six of eight council members voting yes. Had Patzelt pushed for a vote Monday, he would have failed. Other members of the council expressed willingness to work with Patzelt, provided that he met their wishes.

Monday’s meeting was a victory for the council, whose members have said repeatedly they want no new rental properties in the city.

Patzelt said in an interview Wednesday that he would return with a plan that keeps the number of townhouses at 10 percent or less of all homes in the subdivision and caps the number of 50-foot-wide lots at 250 or fewer. The plan will also include an extension of Normal Road north to Bethany Road without an impact fee credit request – everything the council wanted.

“All I can do is try; it is what I’ve been doing,” Patzelt said. “We’re trying to appeal to their requests and work with staff. I thought we had pretty much met everything they needed. If certain aldermen are going to vote no regardless, there’s nothing I can do.”

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson was adamant about capping the number of
townhouses in Irongate. Like his colleagues, Jacobson is worried about the townhouses, and that eventually the whole area will become a rental community.

“We’re trying to figure out how to prevent homes that are designed for single families [from becoming rental housing],” he said.

Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker has an idea: Include some sort of financial penalty property owners would face if they convert the houses to rental property.

He compared it to provisions homeowners associations will have, but lack the financial resources to enforce them.

The aldermen are funneling a list of development criteria to City Manager Mark Biernacki on what else they want to see in Irongate.

Another public hearing on the proposal will be held March 25.

“The intent is to stop the round robin we’ve been having at this point,” 2nd Ward Alderman Tom Teresinski said. Teresinski said he felt the council has vetted the issue sufficiently for the public.

Patzelt had pushed for getting some kind of impact fee credit for the section of Normal that would be built without houses along it, but said he has since moved on.

A proposal to reduce impact fees for the development, even if on a temporary basis, was also a nonstarter for the council. Impact fees are payments developers make to municipalities to offset the cost of new public projects such as roads and streetlights. Patzelt warned that the impact fees would be passed onto potential home buyers. Teresinski framed the issue as a slippery slope.

“If you give it to one, how are you not going to give it to others in the area?” Teresinski said.

Most people attending Monday’s meeting, including Jon Sauser, a DeKalb resident and developer, reacted negatively to Irongate community.

“There is no need for new housing at this time,” Sauser said. “I don’t see the need for a new development when we have plenty of new supply.”

Patzelt said he would re-examine his development plans if the council votes no on annexation.

“It all depends on why they say no. Or do they just say no?” Patzelt said. “... Hopefully, we don’t get to that point. Many of [the aldermen] are trying to, if you did this, then we would consider it.”

Both Lash and O’Leary stated that there is no demand for a new development such as Irongate in DeKalb. DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said the council also has to plan for the future.

“The criticism – there’s not a demand now, but we’re talking 20 to 30 years out,” said Povlsen, adding that the council shouldn’t limit its vision to the present.

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