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Vote on Joliet Tallgrass Estates subdivision delayed

A number of concerned residents voiced their opposition to a proposed residential development at the Joliet City Council’s July 5 meeting.

Officials delayed the adoption of an ordinance for a preliminary planned unit development in a 6-0 vote. Councilman John Gerl and Pat Mudron were absent from the meeting.

Tallgrass Estates would be located at the southeast corner of McDonough Street and the Interstate 55 southeast Frontage Road.

At 20.3 acres in total, the proposed project calls for 156 apartments on 10 lots. Each acre would contain approximately 7.7 dwelling units, which is more than the six-unit per acre limit for city lots zoned as R-4, or multi-family residential.

The measure would’ve allowed the city to waive the requirement for maximum density, increasing the number of units in the original plan from 150 to 156. Tabling the matter gives the developer additional time to reach out to concerned residents who live in close proximity to the proposed subdivision.

“My neighbors and I were blindsided,” said Cynthia Sanmiguel, a concerned homeowner of a Timber Oaks condominium, which is located across the street from the proposed development. “We didn’t know anything about this build. We found out when we saw the signs go up and we called the city of Joliet.”

Sanmiguel, as well as several of her neighbors who also spoke at the meeting, is not happy about the impact she thinks the new development will have on the “small, quiet community” she and her neighbors share.

However, the developer of Tallgrass Estates refuted the claim that he had not reached out to the homeowner’s association.

Ed Mattox said only one resident in opposition to the project attended a June 16 planning commission meeting, where the development was considered.

“This is surprising to me, as well,” Mattox said. “I don’t know what kind of information was sent out. I know there was a flyer sent to the residents just this past week, so I’m not sure what is in that to bring a heightened concerned.”

Plans for Tallgrass Estates call for nine 16-unit buildings and one 12-unit building. All but three units will have two bedrooms and include 1,100 square feet of living space. The remaining units would be 800 square feet, according to the developer.

If approved, each unit will have its own entrance and laundry facilities. This designation gives the developer the option to convert the units to townhomes in the future. A clubhouse and pool are also proposed as part of the developer’s plan.

On average, a rental in the proposed subdivision would be $1,400.

According to Mattox, multi-family dwellings, such as Timber Oaks condominiums, are less expensive developments. He said it is also more difficult to finance those projects in today’s real estate market.

“The requirements are more stringent than they were then, so the people that would occupy this new development [are] basically the same people,” he said. “It’s market rents, but financing and the requirements for financing are different today than they were then.”

Mattox also stated that a variance was previously granted to allow buildings at Timber Oaks to occupy 7.2 dwelling units per acre.

He said the Tallgrass Estates is intended to mirror the Timber Oaks subdivision. The only difference, he added, is the new units would be rentals.

“We feel that this area, actually all of Joliet, is in need of a higher-end rental market for executives; anyone that wants to come here and work,” Mattox said. “Maybe, they’re not fully committed on what they want to buy or what you have.”

He said this type of renter, including empty nesters, are what developers had in mind for the project.

If the waivers were eliminated, the size of the development would be reduced to 120 units over the 20-acre site.

According to Mattox, that outcome would be a deal breaker.

“These buildings are 16-unit buildings, typically,” he said.

Like many other city officials, councilwoman Jan Quillman said tabling the matter made sense on many levels.

“There are too many unanswered questions,” she said. “Apparently, these homeowners are upset because they didn’t know. I’m not saying someone wasn’t contacted. I’m not going to dispute Mr. Mattox’s comment that he contacted someone. But, obviously all these people here have been blindsided and they’re upset.”

Nicole Alkhatib, of Joliet, was one of several concerned residents whose children goes to Troy School District 33-C’s Heritage Trails Elementary School where redistricting has occurred. She said she doesn’t think the proposed development would benefit her family moving forward, as Mattox is suggesting.

“If they build the exact same building that we’re in, how is that going to enhance our [property] values,” she asked.

Alkhatib stated that Timber Ridge residents were supposed to have the pool and health club that Mattox described, but she said he never finished those additions.

“It’d be nice if somebody finished our neighborhood before he goes and starts some huge project,” she added.

The Joliet City Council will vote on the matter at a later date.

Joliet approves contract for 2016 electrical maintenance

The Joliet City Council approved a price agreement for the 2016 electrical maintenance assistance contract at its July 5 meeting.

The new rate will be in place until Dec. 31, at which time officials will have the option to extend the price agreement an additional year or request new proposals for the following calendar year.

With the addition of decorative street lighting and traffic signal improvements, electrical infrastructure in the city has grown rapidly. Reports from the city’s electrical division indicate that Joliet experiences between one and two knockdowns requiring maintenance per week.

Officials awarded a $150,000 contract to Van-Mack Electric, which submitted the lowest of three bids. Van-Mack has previously completed worked for the city.

City backs change order for Laraway Road improvements

City officials also approved change order No. 1 for the Laraway Road roadway improvements project.

An initial $1.44 million payment to Austin Tyler Construction, was increased by $144,702 due to the addition of fiber optic duct along Laraway and Rowell Avenue. According to the city, construction has been delayed due to ongoing relocation of AT&T duct that conflicts with a proposed storm sewer for the road.

Officials said they intend to take advantage of the cost savings applied when installing the duct for the fiber optic line at the same time that the construction of the roadway is taking place.

The city will pay the added amount owed using existing IT funds.