12-unit townhome proposal renews call for affordable housing in Naperville

Architectural rendering of townhome proposal for Bauer & Mill Townhomes
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The proposed development of a 12-unit townhome project, with monthly rents in the range of $3,500, recently prompted a renewed discussion about Naperville’s affordable housing needs.

Mill and Bauer LLC has submitted a petition with the city to annex a 0.89-acre property, consisting of 10 separate lots, at 27W280 Bauer Road into Naperville’s municipal limits. The plans were reviewed at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s most recent meeting.

The site is at the northeast corner of Mill Street and Bauer Road and is in unincorporated DuPage County. Nike Park is to the north of the land, the Mayne Farm is to the south and Truth Lutheran Church is to the west.

Mill and Bauer’s current plans include the construction of two buildings — one with eight attached units, the other with four attached units.

Annexation, rezoning necessary

Several pieces need to come together for Mill and Bauer’s townhome plans to reach the development and construction phase, including official annexation of the property in Naperville’s municipal limits and attaching a zoning designation to the land.

In their petition, Mill and Bauer representatives are seeking the city’s transitional-use district designation, which would permit a townhome development.

“This area continues to see growth, and higher density development is appropriate, given its location along Mill Street,” said Caitlin Csuk, an attorney with the law firm of Rosanova and Whitaker Ltd. Csuk spoke to commissioners on the petitioner’s behalf.

“This subject property is an absolutely ideal location for a residential opportunity that will provide an appropriate transition to a variety of uses in the general vicinity,” Csuk said.

Affordability concerns raised with townhome proposal

Several commissioners weighed in on the proposed rent of about $3,500 a month, which falls outside the parameters of what in Naperville is considered affordable for rent. That range has been set at $1,600 to $1,900 per month.

“I guess it concerns me,” Anthony Losurdo, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said when the application initially went before the panel at a June 7 meeting. “I think we’re using that word a little too much lately — ‘affordable.’ What actually is affordable in Naperville?”

Commissioners ultimately took no action on Mill and Bauer’s petition, opting instead to continue the public hearing to the next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 21.

Losurdo, in particular, said he is frustrated with the high-priced housing projects that are coming before the city when developments with lower price points have been a persistent need within the community.

“I feel that if we’re not going to have an affordable component, we shouldn’t be talking about it,” Losurdo said. “No server at my restaurant could afford ($3,500 monthly rent).”

Nearby residents raise strong objections

Four nearby property owners in unincorporated DuPage County raised objections to the project when the Planning and Zoning Commission held its initial public hearing. Traffic, noise and perceived incompatibility with the surrounding area were among the concerns raised.

“Architectural-wise, this is a bad plan,” Bauer Road resident Ralph Taylor said. “What they propose … does not fit with the rest of the single-family homes along Bauer Road. A much better use of this property would be to divide it into two equal lots and build single-family homes in a modernistic style that would fit in with the rest of the houses on Bauer Road.”

Dave Doubek, who lives on Eagle Street, shared similar concerns.

“This will alter the essential character of the neighborhood,” Doubek said. “This will increase congestion and present a traffic hazard. If the variance is granted, it will alter the essential character of the neighborhood and will cause substantial detriment to the adjacent property values.”

Csuk said efforts have been made in advance of the public hearing to meet with neighbors.

“We did host a meeting, and we invited neighbors we thought were most impacted by this development,” Csuk said. “A few showed up, and we had really constructive conversations. It overall was very positive.”

Image rendering courtesy: Studio21 architects

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