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DeKalb's Planning and Zoning Commission tables University Village vote

DeKalb’s Planning and Zoning Commission wants more time with rezoning request

DeKALB – The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission wants more time to consider a zoning change that is the linchpin of a Seattle company’s plan to buy and renovate University Village, the city’s largest apartment complex.

After a four-hour meeting Wednesday, the commission voted 5-1 to postpone a vote on the rezoning request until April 29. Commissioner Adam Katz voted against the extension. He said he already had made up his mind, but declined to share how he planned to vote on the request. Commissioner Deborah Nier didn’t attend the meeting.

Seattle-based Security Properties plans to buy the 534-unit apartment complex at 722 N. Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb and undertake an $18 million renovation project.

Security Properties plans to finance the project using low-income housing tax credits, tax-exempt bonds, Illinois Housing Development Authority Trust Funds and federal Housing and Urban Development pilot program financing, according to city documents. The underwriting assumes the company will spend about $27,000 a unit with total construction costs of more than $18 million.

The deal hinges on the city rezoning the property to planned unit development from multifamily residential. The zoning change would allow the owners to maintain the existing number of units and parking spaces, which current city code would not allow.

Without the zoning change, Security Properties can’t get financing for the project, said Bryon Gongaware, managing director for the company. He emphasized that the project would substantially improve the property and living conditions for residents while addressing key concerns about safety.

The rehab work could start this year and would take 18 to 20 months to complete. The work would be done with tenants in place. Residents would be relocated to vacant apartments during the day while the work is done. Construction is expected to take about four days for each unit.

The proposed project includes kitchen, bathroom and other interior renovations along with replacing doors, fixtures and appliances. The project includes adding two playgrounds, replacing the pool with a splash pad and upgrading the doors, entrances and siding on the property. The city further wants the company to address a number of fire safety, health and security and city code concerns and add bus stations for residents at locations on Annie Gladden Road and Russell Road.

After closing the public hearing, Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Michael Welsh said he didn’t think there was a consensus on the the commission and wanted to hold off on voting until the commission members were well rested.

During the meeting, the commission heard from city staff, representatives from Security Properties, tenants living in the complex and a several local property owners.

The University Village Tenants Association backed Security Properties plan.

“This will help our residents to continue working with the nonprofits in the community and bringing resources to the residents as well as building our relationships within the community,” association representative Tiara Huggins told the commission. “We’re in favor of new management as well as new owners. We strongly feel that Security Properties and Evergreen Management are here to improve on our living situation as well as the image University Village currently has.”

Several local property owners urged the commission to deny the rezoning request. They said they wanted a level playing field. Jim Mason of Mason Properties said the seven variances the commission would need to approve to allow the proposed zoning change was unfair to other property owners.

“This issue of seven variances is a sock in the face to the city of DeKalb,” Mason said. “If the Planning Commission and City Council waive these rights, you’ll have a hard time telling anybody ‘no’ in the future.”

Welsh said that his main concern with the request was the density of the project, which calls for almost 18 units an acre. The city’s Unified Developments set the maximum at 12 units an acre.

Commission members also asked questions about the company’s plan for parking and how the apartment complex would look in 20 or 30 years.

The commission said it will vote on the issue at a meeting April 29. The commission usually meets at 6 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 200 S. Fourth St., DeKalb.

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