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Our View: ShoDeen Homes annexation a good agreement

Published: Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The annexation agreement struck this week between ShoDeen Homes and the DeKalb City Council looks to be a good one.

In it, the council was able to balance the city’s need for new housing stock with the concerns that routinely arise when many new homes are built at once.

Yes, ShoDeen will be allowed to build more than 1,500 homes on 458 acres near DeKalb High School, but they won’t be able to build them all within five or 10 years. The project is slated for a 20-year buildout, with about 20 houses to be built in the first year.

ShoDeen won’t be able to build any multifamily homes until 350 single-family homes have been completed, which probably means it will be years before any townhomes spring up on the site. Even when townhomes are built, the plan is to include convenants that will prohibit them from being used as rental property – although who knows if that can last forever.

Meanwhile, having an active housing development underway in the city could be a benefit in many ways. At some point in the next five to 10 years, odds are some new large employer will be taking a hard look at the area as a potential site to move or open their business – and the state and availability of DeKalb’s housing stock will definitely be considered. Who knows – it might one day be in the city’s and developer’s interest to speed up the build-out of the subdivision if we experience another economic boom.

What’s more, having added choices in the local housing market increases that chance that professionals – including Northern Illinois University employees – will choose to live here rather than seeking homes in the Tri-Cities or Naperville.

It’s even possible that new home building in the community could encourage some owners of older existing properties to spruce them up in the face of increased competition in the housing market.

DeKalb School District 428 also stands to recoup money for improvements made to the area once development begins on the site. In addition, new homes will be subject to impact fees designed to help compensate for the new students who will enter local schools.

The city’s other recent project launched by ShoDeen, the “NB&T Square” near downtown, has been a debacle, and it’s reasonable to have doubts about the developer in that regard. Having a cluster of disgruntled residents living in a neighborhood of unfinished lots and a developer who is unwilling or unable to help them is a headache that no city needs.

However, housing market conditions have improved through much of 2013, and we can’t think of any businesspeople who invest their time and effort in projects they consider doomed to fail.

In order for most any town to grow its economy over time, it must also grow in population. The annexation agreement with ShoDeen provides for a gradual build-out that should provide single-family housing options in a price range where studies have shown they are needed.

Provided that ShoDeen does more than stick a sign in the ground and sit on the property for the next three years, the Irongate subdivision should be a positive for the city.

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