Batavia leaders raise issues on planned industrial park
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media September 13, 2013 9:12AM
Updated: October 16, 2013 6:23AM
BATAVIA — Aldermen have left it up to a developer to decide whether to proceed through the city review process for an industrial park on a 56-acre tract of land on the east side of Kirk Road and Wind Energy Pass.
The Missner Group originally came before the city in July to gauge whether Batavia would be receptive to amending the comprehensive land use plan and rezoning the parcel for two industrial buildings built to drive potential tenants.
Aldermen have continued their review of the concept plans, leaving mixed signals for the developer and a group of residents whose homes border the property.
Representatives of the developer declined to make a presentation at a recent City Council meeting and neighboring homeowners left the meeting perturbed because public comments were only for matters not on the agenda. The residents were told there would be at least two public hearings if the developer decided to submit a formal petition.
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said he is fully supportive of residents having an opportunity to speak at meetings, but the developer had not submitted so much as a preliminary plan for aldermen to respond to.
“If someone (the developer) wants to step forward, it will go through the normal review process,” Schielke said.
The city annexed the property in 2005 originally with R-4 zoning on the eastern 36 acres for 242 townhouses, and general commercial on the western 20 acres.
The proposal is for a 495,000-square-foot building and a 300,000-square-foot building, possibly for warehouse distribution and manufacturing and possibly some commercial operations. The developer had said they were attracted to the site because of its good access to the Interstate 88 tollway.
An informal poll of the committee was five to two in favor, but three aldermen were undecided and three did not voice their opinion. Aldermen Lisa Clark said she was opposed to “spot zoning” to fit the interests of a developer.
“I don’t think a developer should tell us what our zoning should be. We should have a plan,” Clark said.
“There is nothing but residential around it, and to have a spot location of industrial with a spattering of commercial to me doesn’t work,” Alderman Steve Vasilion said.
“If we were in a booming economy, we would probably be more selective and hold out for a higher-end and better use. We may be swayed or influenced by a quick source of revenue because the economy is bad,” he said.
Alderman Dave Brown said he would encourage the developer to continue talking with staff.
“I am in favor of seeing the property developed and don’t see it as a downfall for this type of use for the property. I see it as a good location myself ... it all makes sense to me why the developer is picking the site,” Brown said.
Alderman Garran Sparks said the city would be “jumping just to put something in there” and Aurora already has several industrial parks along Butterfield and Kirk roads.
Alderman Jamie Saam said she was concerned residential zoning would generate more students into the Batavia school system.
The parcel is surrounded by multi-family apartments and single-family residences to the south in Aurora, Fermilab to the east and unincorporated agricultural property to the north. On the west side of Kirk in Batavia are townhouses and a commercial plaza.
“The residents have a say in this, too. It reflects on our decisions and to keep them quiet and pass it on ... I don’t think it is right. We should have a firmer stance if we are going to move forward and from everyone on the council,” Sparks said.
Alderman Susan Stark said she supported having staff continue talks with the developer.
“We have a process in place and if it is going to be rezoned it has to go through other channels to get us,” Stark said.
“...Batavia residents are getting no benefit from vacant land. I don’t feel any guilt if I turn it down, it is (the developer’s) money to spend,” Stark said. “The people we have heard the loudest from are not Batavia residents. They are people who live in Aurora. That factors into this as I look into it.”
Residents from the Savannah and Kirkland Farms subdivisions in Aurora said their children to attend Batavia public schools and they were hoping to address aldermen with their concerns with property values, truck traffic and quality of life issues.
“More than half of our property taxes go to the Batavia schools and the park district,” resident Diane Litow said. “We are very much invested in the city of Batavia. Our children attend Batavia schools, we take them to school functions and utilize the businesses.”