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Neighbors group members voice concerns about subarea plans

Members of the West Yorkfield Neighbors group gather and listen as Nik Davis of Houseal Lavigne Associates presents proposed subarea plan amendments at the Nov. 13 Development, Planning and Zoning Committee meeting.
Members of the West Yorkfield Neighbors group gather and listen as Nik Davis of Houseal Lavigne Associates presents proposed subarea plan amendments at the Nov. 13 Development, Planning and Zoning Committee meeting.

ELMHURST – The city of Elmhurst’s Development, Planning and Zoning Committee heard from members of the West Yorkfield Neighbors group about concerns they have with proposed subarea plans.

About 18 members of the West Yorkfield Neighbors group attended the committee’s Nov. 13 meeting, which is the latest step for a process in which the city is considering changes to the subarea plans in the city’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan.

The five areas considered for updates in a process that began with initial planning phases in April 2017 are the Lake Street Corridor, the intersection of North Avenue and Route 83, the block northwest of the intersection of First and York streets, the York and Vallette Business District and the York Street and Butterfield Road subarea.

Houseal Lavigne Associates, a Chicago-based professional consulting firm specializing in community planning, urban design and economic development, has developed the subarea recommendations, which are based on discussions with residents, businesses and property owners, city zoning officials and city staff, as well as “the analysis and application of best practices for planning and development,” according to the draft subarea plans document included with the committee meeting packet.

The West Yorkfield Neighbors group has objected to the plans outlined for their area, the York Street and Butterfield Road district, as seen on social media and by their attendance at meetings about the plans.

As it stands today, the district includes Elmhurst Hospital, smaller institutions, office buildings, retail establishments, multi-family complexes and single-family homes, the document stated. It is a mix of unincorporated DuPage County and city of Elmhurst jurisdictions, according to the document.

Nik Davis, a principal at Houseal Lavigne Associates, gave a presentation at the Nov. 13 meeting about the recommendations.

Properties along York Street should be redeveloped with medical uses and ground floor retail. Upper levels could also accommodate multi-family housing, according to the document.

Single-family homes should be redeveloped with attached or multi-family ones and as the district includes Elmhurst Hospital, it could be ideal for assisted living facilities, the document stated. As redevelopment occurs, properties within this subarea that are under DuPage County jurisdiction should be incorporated into the city of Elmhurst, according to the document.

Davis said times have changed since the 2009 Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2009.

“The development trends then are very different than what we’re facing now,” Davis said.

Davis said that if the five subarea plans are adopted as amendments to the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, they would fall into the current comprehensive plan and be available for the city to use in discussions with developers to clarify its desires for the areas and identify to developers what the city would like to have happen in the respective area of the city.

Davis said that though they anticipate their recommendations would be the best use for the areas, the plans are not “locked in,” and a better, unanticipated use might theoretically become appropriate.

“Intentionally, it [the subarea planning document] allows for flexibility,” Davis said.

Daniel Cusack, a West Yorkfield resident of 31 years, expressed concerns about both the subarea plans proposed for their area and the future of their area, considering other issues he says their area is facing, including cut-through traffic, declining property values as seen by slowdowns in house sales, flooding, lack of snowplowing and street cleaning, and sanitary sewer system infrastructure problems.

Cusack said the subarea plan, with what he says are “drastic changes” to the character of the neighborhood, causes problems by complicating the property values and marketability of area homes.

“Who wants to buy a home when the future might very well place a three- or four-story medical building or multi-family housing unit right next to you?” Cusack said.

He added that he is among several longtime residents of the unincorporated area that do not want to have their area annexed into Elmhurst.

“To most of us in the neighborhood, that means higher real estate taxes with little to no benefit to us,” Cusack said.

Honquest said the committee was “not really prepared” to respond to the comments and concerns from the group members because he wanted to give the group time to voice their concerns, and the committee is still reviewing the whole plan.

Honquest said he would want to speak with city staff to receive their feedback about the concerns the group has expressed and decide what the next course of action should be, whether that entails independent meetings between city staff and the group, spending more time examining the West Yorkfield subarea as they advance the rest of the plans or another option.

Alderman Mark Mulliner, who is on the committee, said the committee would revisit the plan with staff and the consultant in light of the concerns, and there might be revisions to the plan.

Mulliner said he would want to continue public communication so all parties are on the same page.

“I think there’s things that we can talk about here and come up with some solutions,” Mulliner said.

Honquest said he would communicate with Cusack directly to ensure information about any meetings involving staff and the consultant regarding the West Yorkfield subarea would be shared with the group.

The committee will continue to discuss the plans and consider actions at its next meeting, which is Nov. 26.

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