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Downers Grove Plan Commission Delays Vote on Senior Living Facility

Developers hope to build a sheltered care facility for seniors on 63rd Street next to an existing church, despite overwhelming opposition from neighborhood residents.

A proposal to build a senior living facility in Downers Grove has been put on hold until later this month as developers work to quell concerns raised by village officials and neighborhood residents.

More than 100 people attended a nearly five-hour planning and zoning meeting Monday night to hear Delta Development's proposal to build a three-story, 94,840-square-foot supportive living facility at 715-817 63rd St. between Main Street and Fairmount Avenue. The plan includes the purchasing of land from First Christian Church of Downers Grove, 801 63rd St., to create a 7.25-acre campus in an area surrounded by single-family homes. 

The facility would include 120 units—60 studios and 60 one-bedroom apartments—for seniors 65 and older, and would be authorized under Illiniois' Supportive Living Facility Program, which provides a subsidized, long-term residence option for senior citizens who need extra help but do not require a nursing home. 

Following a lengthy presentation from the developer, nearly two dozen residents went before the plan commission to speak out against the proposal. A petition with more than 250 signatures was also presented.

Residents raised a myriad of concerns about the facility's presence in their community, including the impact on traffic, property values, storm water runoff and the overall character of the neighborhood.

As the meeting approached its fifth hour, the commission voted 7-1 to call a recess and take up the issue again at its Feb. 25 meeting—giving them more time to deliberate and the petitioner more time to answer lingering questions.

The decision to adjourn was also prompted by a resident's testimony regarding a restrictive covenant that could impact the proposal. On Thursday, village officials sent a copy of the covenant to the petitioner, confirming that there is a restriction in place that limits lots in the subdivision to only single-family residential  buildings.

"As such, the village is prohibited from taking any further action on this application until such time that documentation is produced that the issue regarding this restriction is resolved," the letter states. 

The developer has until Feb. 11 to produce proper documentation, otherwise the Feb. 25 hearing will be canceled, according to village officials.

Third attempt to build supportive living facility in Downers Grove

Although many residents around 63rd Street said they found out about the facility just a few weeks or days prior to the hearing, the proposal is actually several years in the making.

Licenses for supportive living facilities are issued by the state on a limited basis and are site specific, making the process highly competitive. The last round of licenses issued was in 2006, when more than 100 applicants competed for about a dozen licenses, according to village documents.

There are currently 138 supportive living facilities in Illinois, with three in DuPage County—in Naperville, West Chicago and Bloomingdale.

Delta Development obtained a license for a Downers Grove facility in in 2005, but lost it after a period of inactivity, according to company president Michael Fiandaca. 

About two years ago, Fiandaca and his team began working with the village to secure the site on 63rd Street, but were told that the lot in question did not meet the five-acre requirement for sheltered care facilities in Downers Grove. Last year, they petitioned the village to build a five-story facility at 5100 Forest Ave., the site of a vacant bank building across from the Downers Grove Public Library.

In October, the plan commission voted 5-2 to forward a positive recommendation to the village council, with Gregory Beggs and chair Greg Hosé casting the dissenting votes. However, the petition was withdrawn in November after commissioners expressed overwhelming opposition to the project—primarily due to its location in downtown Downers Grove, which they said went against goals outlined in the village's comprehensive plan.

With time running out on the SLF license, Delta Development went back to 63rd Street, this time to partner with First Christian Church to purchase more land. The new proposal is now consistent with the comprehensive plan, as well as zoning and land use classifications, according to village staff, who recommended approval.

During his presentation to the plan commission, Fiandaca said they have until January 2014 to build the facility, which he said would be the missing link between independent living and a nursing home.

"There is a huge need for this type of facility in Downers Grove," Fiandaca said. "It would be invaluable to the community, especially the seniors who love Downers Grove and want to stay in town." 

Residents stand their ground

During their two-hour presentation to the commission, representatives from Delta Development attempted to answer many of the questions raised at a neighborhood meeting Jan. 16.

An engineer detailed results from a traffic study, which focused primarily on 63rd Street where it intersects with Lyman and Park avenues. The study concluded that any increase in traffic would have minimal impact on intersection operations.

Most of the residents disputed the report, which they said painted an inaccurate picture of pedestrian traffic and accidents in the area.

"There will be kids, seniors and adults trying to cross the street, and this is a high-accident area," said resident Rex Howard, who expressed concerns about the facility's impact on children walking to nearby schools.

Much of the public comment was also devoted to the facility's general impact on the character of the neighborhood. Despite an appraiser's claims that an SLF would not negatively impact property values, many residents said it would make it difficult to sell their homes.

"This is in my backyard," said resident Mark Brennan. "I understand what you want to do, but I wouldn't have bought this house had I known about this."

Several members of First Christian Church also attended the meeting to voice their support of the project, which they said will revitalize the church and the neighborhood.

"We think this project will benefit Downers Grove and the surrounding community," said Jim McNamara, vice chair of First Christian Church. He added that the purpose of a senior living facility dovetails on the church's existing ministries.

Despite additional testimonies by members of First Christian Church, the neighborhood residents stood their ground. They were generally in favor of a senior living facility in Downers Grove, but said building one in a residential neighborhood would be a poor choice.

"We bought houses here because we wanted to be in a residential community," said Mike Feeney, who lives on nearby 62nd Street. "This is not a Christian issue, and this is not a senior issue. This is a residential issue."

What's ahead

Delta Development has until Feb. 11 to resolve the restrictive covenant presented by the village in its letter Thursday. Should they provide proper documentation, the plan commission will continue the hearing Feb. 25 to deliberate and vote.

If a vote is taken, the proposal will held to the village council for final approval.

Fiandaca said Delta is on a strict timeline with the project, and risks losing its license or the tax credit investors, who have committed to funding 98 percent of facility.

"We're on borrowed time," Fiandaca said. "The state has lost patience with us. If this (delay) goes anywhere past a few weeks, things are going to get problematic."

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DHD February 01, 2013 at 01:02 PM
You better get used to it. These type of facilities are going to be commonplace as the baby boomers continue to advance in age.
Linda Cameron February 01, 2013 at 04:42 PM
What was Delta Dev thinking ? They did not do enough research on finding a site that would not have such an adverse impact on such a vibrant and beautiful neighborhood such as ours.. During the presentation and open hearing neighbors suggested numerous sites in Downers Grove that would be wonderful for senior housing. These developers come into towns and try to jam this stuff down our throats . When Mr. Fiandaca, who lives in Barrington, was questioned whether he would want a bldg.of this magnitude in his backyard, his answer was "no". It's all about the money. It has nothing to do with social consciousness. Delta thought they would slide this under the radar with First Christian Church without a fight. They underestimated our community and the love we have for our neighborhood. We want to maintain it not just for now but for generations to come. A beautiful place with ranches and bi-level homes on larger lots. God bless our neighborhood . We intend to fight this to the very end. These developers better start to wake up.
AL February 01, 2013 at 07:16 PM
Maybe consider the property on 83rd and Lemont Rd The old Wescom property
Barry Allen February 02, 2013 at 02:42 AM
If Delta's license for the facility is only for Downers Grove I believe they would be out of luck with the site at 83rd and Lemont Rd.. I'm pretty sure it is in Darien.
Ann Kerbs February 03, 2013 at 03:57 PM
I guess I'm confused as to what the negative impacts of this facility would be? Why is the neighborhood objecting to a residential facility? If there were 3 hours of testimony, what were the specific objections? Are there problems with pedestrian traffic now? And how will the seniors make it worse? More info is needed. Or details on where to get the info.
Linda Cameron February 03, 2013 at 06:28 PM
First of all, you need to be aware of the location. It is breaking up a residential community of single family homes. and putting in a 3 story building. There are problems now with vehicular traffic which affects pedestrians. Get the 1-28-13 agenda, view 5 hour minutes. There are also flooding issues we already have.
Ann Kerbs February 04, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Often these larger residential facilities include retention ponds and open areas for flood control. Could this actually help or ease the flood problems in the area? Just curious. I know the area along Rte 53 near Hidden Lake didn't have as much flooding until the single family residential area was built behind it and flood control was never built into the neighborhood. These types of larger facilities are often forced to include retention ponds to head off flooding issues at the start.
Linda Cameron February 04, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Thats part of the problem. There already is a retention pond that cannot be enlarged it drains into spring park wetlands along with all the other storm drains in the neighborhood. spring park floods into the backyards of some lots on Fairmount . With this size structure the run off is alot. Delta thinks by containing water in retention pond and release slowly will work. Stagnation & mosquitos.
Linda Cameron February 04, 2013 at 06:00 PM
My suggestion for a great site was 407 W 63rd - 2.4 acres - plus vacant adjoining property as well. Rethink construction Have parking on ground level and units built above. More of a hi-rise. Seniors can walk to Grocery store and walgreens. Muddy waters is a retention pond. westmont & downers grove form a coalition share tax revenue, property used to be part of DG. annexed to Westmont.
Dan G February 04, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Build it---They will come.
Dan F. February 05, 2013 at 01:35 PM
Sounds like what Valley View is slated to get. The Village says that is really natural wetlands restoration, not swamps and mosquitoes.
Jon February 05, 2013 at 06:16 PM
How about at 63rd and Woodward? The people over there said they would support redevelopment but not retail. This is redevelopment and not retail so those residentss at 63rd and Woodward would welcome this. They said they were apposed to Walgreens but not residential or medical and that is what this is.
Rick February 05, 2013 at 07:18 PM
First of all, learn to spell. Second, I applaud people that actually challenge their government and greedy corporations (including developers). Not only it is their first amendment right to do so, they don't come across as mindless sheep like a good number of you people do.
Yvette February 07, 2013 at 07:09 PM
I'm familiar with the area, but do not live in neighborhood, so I can not speak for or against the concerns the residents are voicing. What I do know is that there is a dire need for a Supportive Living Facility in the Southeast section of the county. I work with seniors in the Southeast section of the county (Westmont, Downers Grove, Darien, Hinsdale, etc.) and finding appropriate, affordable housing is often a problem. These seniors are also part of the community and have lived in their homes for many, many years. To expect them to pack up and move out of the county or to Bloomingdale or West Chicago (where 2 of the 3 Supportive Living Facilities in DuPage County are) isn't fair. They want to continue living in the communities they have grown to love and call home. Sadly, what ends up happening is that seniors refuse to move often living in unsafe conditions. With the completion of this project, seniors could remain in the area, live in a facility that would offer the support services they need, and offer affordable rent. I hope, I really hope, that a resolution can be reached.
Linda Cameron February 07, 2013 at 07:50 PM
This same developer wanted to build the SLF in town on Forrest near Gilbert. The Village voted it down. It would have been a perfect place. Their excuse was the site was to be for commercial use. Blame the Village on this one.
goddess February 08, 2013 at 08:39 PM
There's not enough space at that location for a development of this size. When will the board learn not to stick buildings into neighborhoods that don't match the characteristics of the area? Much like the Walgreens, this development belongs someplace else. The developers want to build their projects where they can get the land the cheapest, not where they are most appropriate. There is a huge open track of land on Ogden Avenue that would be a perfect location for this project.
goddess February 08, 2013 at 08:45 PM
I don't think anyone is questioning the need, just the location. If they developers were truly worried about the community they hope to serve, their first step wouldn't be to lower the value of neighboring homes. They need to spend the money for a more appropriate location.
Linda Cameron February 09, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Our community group won. Delta Dev withdrew their application. For all residents who live on 63rd, I would strongly suggest that we change the village's plan to commercialize 63rd from Fairview to the 355 connection. The existing homes, churches, high school keep stability in the neighborhood. The government officials of D.G are all about the money not your welfare.
goddess February 11, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Yay. I wonder if they didn't have a work around for that covenant? Somebody gets kudos for finding that.
Jon March 14, 2013 at 09:05 PM
goddess the site at 63rd and Woodward is bigger than the Downtown site that was once proposed. Would you ever agree to any redevelopment at 63rd and Woodward?
goddess March 15, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Yes I would. Just something appropriate to the location. A building of office suites for example, maybe a medical building. Nothing over two stories and nothing that routes traffic through the neighborhood. Make the only entrance and exit from the parking lot on 63rd. The south west corner of 63rd and Woodward would be different. That's a corner ripe for development. Perfect location and already zoned for bigger businesses.
Linda Cameron March 17, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Big election coming up April 9th. Two forums coming up for village council commissioners. March 23 10am-12pm Lincoln Center and 3-26-13 7pm-9-pm at village hall. David Olsen is a Downers Grove resident and not part of the good old boys who work under the table. He is a great candidate and will represent the citizens. The Village is currently trying to change the zoning regulations. They did not like losing twice. There are also questions on these stormwater fees and misappropriation of funds. The village manager and attorney received salary increases. Lots of double-dipping on the stormwater charges. people here should be outraged

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