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DeKalb City Council's split vote scuttles Irongate project

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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DeKALB – Nearly five years after work initially began on it, the 1,273-unit housing development known as Irongate is now considered dead.

Despite a full-court press from the city staff in support of it, the DeKalb City Council split its vote on the annexation agreement in first reading with the understanding that the city staff would look to the council on how to proceed after Monday’s vote. Mayor John Rey confirmed that the staff will not work on any aspect of the project now.

Annexation agreements require six council members voting yes, so Monday’s vote of 4-4 was two short of what was needed. Rey and Aldermen Bill Finucane, Bob Snow and Ron Naylor voted in favor of the agreement. Aldermen David Jacobson, Kristen Lash, Dave Baker and Monica O’Leary voted no.

Both Snow and Naylor decried the council’s vote, with Snow calling it a shame and Naylor stating it gives the wrong message to developers. Rey also said he was disappointed.

“I would think the project with [five] years of effort, having gone into the project thus far, indications we had from other parties in the community were that they were in agreement,” Rey said. “I am puzzled in what the council wants in that area.”

Critics such as Lash and Baker felt that the timing of a project like Irongate, which would have added 1,273 homes, 123 town houses and 350 senior-oriented units, to an area near DeKalb High School was not right.

Baker, in particular, criticized the amount of staff time that has gone into this project, and mentioned that he would like to see ShoDeen Construction, the developer, pay the city for the staff’s time.

However, Baker offered an olive branch to staffers like City Attorney Dean Frieders and Principal Planner Derek Hiland, who each helped to give an hour-long presentation

“What happened tonight is no reflection on our staff,” Baker said. “The council did not give direction that everything had to be wrapped up tonight.”

Interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu expressed similar sentiments.

“What do you want your staff to do?” Espiritu said. “We’re anticipating a lot of things as what you want staff to work on, and that’s what we’re doing.”

In addition, there were also two instances during the meeting where the city staff was surprised by issues they thought were already resolved.

One was with the DeKalb Park District, which would have received park space in the development. Park Commissioner Per Faivre said the current board has not approved the park land.

Another issue was one of stormwater drainage on adjacent property where the owner was waiting for a response from ShoDeen. But as a result of the City Council’s vote, neither of these issues will be resolved at this point.

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