explores development in northwest DeKalb

DeKALB – DeKalb's northwest side could see more housing and commercial development if a proposal from Geneva-based developer ShoDeen is approved by the city.

ShoDeen President David Patzelt presented a revised version of the "Irongate" development Wednesday to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The proposal was last before the commission in October 2009.

Principal Planner Derek Hiland said Wednesday's workshop would show the changes made to the plan in the past two years and introduce it to some of the newer commissioners.

ShoDeen hopes to develop housing and commercial space over 458 acres south of Bethany Road, north of West Dresser Road, east of Annie Glidden Road and west of North First Street.

Patzelt said the plan is to put more than 1,000 low-density, single-family homes in roughly half of the acreage. Commercial development and apartments would go in the northwest corner; senior housing and townhouses would be located along the west side of the development; and roughly 90 acres of open space and park areas would exist throughout.

The plan also calls for extending Normal Road north until it connects with Bethany Road so the development "horseshoes" DeKalb High School, Patzelt added.

Police Chief Bill Feithen said he is worried about the number of townhouses proposed along Normal Road.

"I'm concerned that with the close proximity to [Northern Illinois University], that we will end up with owners renting these out to students," he said.

The city has had problems with student residents causing disturbances in neighborhoods originally intended as quieter, single-family neighborhoods, Feithen said. He cited examples of a number of properties in town that had been pitched to the city as 2-3 bedroom dwellings with offices or study rooms that now are 4-5 bedroom dwellings.

Patzelt said ShoDeen wasn't interested in creating more high-density student housing and would continue meeting with Feithen to alleviate concerns.

"If I tarnish or ruin the relationship early on in this one corner, I'm going to say I'll have hell to pay doing business within DeKalb in the future," he said.

Other commissioners were concerned that the extended Normal Road and other streets would become traffic concerns when motorists try to use them for shortcuts through the city.

Commissioners did not vote on forwarding the plan to the city council. A public hearing could come at a future commission meeting. If approved by the council, Patzelt said he would be back before the commission with specific proposals and permit requests for Irongate.

Afterward, Patzelt also commented on the dormant proposal to develop the south side of West Lincoln Highway between Pearl and South First streets.

ShoDeen currently owns most of the property on the block and previously proposed building retail properties with high-end apartments on top. But city officials disagreed on how much residential property they wanted to add to downtown.

"Until we get a sense of what the city wants ... we don't know that we can necessarily move forward with the project," Patzelt said.

Hiland said city staffers are concentrating on the Irongate project before going back to West Lincoln Highway.

"I don't see downtown happening in the near future," he said.