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River Road townhome in project in Waukegan gets staff OK

Updated: March 11, 2013 2:22AM

A re-launched effort to build 155 townhomes on a 22.4-acre site on the southeast corner of Route 120 and River Road is scheduled to start moving before the planning & zoning commission tonight, and the concept will carry a conditional recommendation for approval from the city’s planning staff.

“We feel that with some modifications suggested in the (planned unit development) staff report, the proposed development should become a quality addition to 120 Corridor without disrupting the estate residential character of the area to the south,” reads a Jan. 3 memo from Russ Tomlin, director of building, planning and zoning, regarding the River Glen Capital Group’s prospective $38 million Asters on River subdivision.

Tomlin included a general warning that “155 units on the subject site is certainly a very dense development,” and he recommended that River Glen eliminate larger rowhouse-style townhomes planned for the development. In the application for a conditional-use permit for the preliminary plan of a planned unit development, River Glen officials call for 71 conventional townhomes and 84 rowhouses.

Among the information included in the planning staff’s report:

While River Glen officials have compared their plan to the Asters on Almond subdivision to the west, senior planner Steven Sabourin writes that the 62-unit Asters on Almond has a density of 2.53 dwelling units per acre, while Asters on River would have 7.01 units per acre. He also noted that the Almond project has 16.6 acres of open space as opposed to the 10.6 proposed on River Road.

Regarding traffic impact, a study contracted by the city showed that the development would generate 1,030 trips per day, while a consultant for the developer estimated 877 daily trips. The report states that while River Road “does leave limited options for traffic into and out of the proposed development, (neither) traffic study suggests that those daily trips generated by the proposed development are an unreasonable burden for the properties to the south.”

Tomlin notes that a study by Schaumburg-based consulting firm Tracy Cross & Associates concluded that “the proposed density is the best use of the property and likely the only type of development that could currently sell in this market. In fact, the prospective developers are quick to point out that the Tracy Cross study suggests that 160 units is the ideal density and that they have reduced that number to 155 units.”

Not only does the project have to meet the city’s scrutiny, but River Glen would need to reach impact-fee agreements with the Waukegan Park District and both the Woodland elementary and Warren Township high school districts before a plan could be approved.

Today’s meeting, slated for 7 p.m. at City Hall, comes after River Glen withdrew an initial proposal in the fall, a plan that drew opposition from homeowners in subdivisions south of the property on River Road. The new package requests not only the conditional-use permit, but also a rezoning of the property to R-5, or limited general residence. Whatever the planning and zoning commission recommends, the project would advance to the City Council’s Judiciary Committee and then the full council for a yes-or-no vote. If a preliminary plan is approved, River Glen would have to repeat the process to secure a final plan.

On Monday, the council removed one potential hurdle for concepts like Asters on River by giving unanimous approval to new guidelines for “cluster developments,” defined in part as projects of at least five acres “in which principal buildings and structures are grouped together on a site, saving the remaining land area for common open space, conservation, agriculture, recreation, and public and semi-public uses.”

“A well-planned cluster development concentrates dwelling units on the most buildable portion of the site and preserves natural drainage systems, vegetation, open space, and other significant natural features that help control stormwater runoff and soil erosion,” reads a staff report that requested the new regulations, adding that “it is important to have these guidelines established before a developer submits a proposal so that the developer understands what the city is looking for (when) it comes to the preservation of passive and active open space, the preservation of natural features (ravines, creeks, ponds, lakes), scenic views, and archaeological sites, etc.”

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