Variance requested for 56-home development on former Berteau campus

ELMHURST – Nitti Development presented plans Thursday for a new subdivision on the former Elmhurst Memorial Hospital Berteau property.

"Without the variance, we wouldn't be able to do this plan at all," said Joe Nitti, president of Nitti Development.

Nitti and consultants made their case for requesting a variation for the 50-foot right of way, instead of the typical 66 feet. The proposed subdivision would include a new U-shaped street intersecting Berteau Avenue at two places.

"We're not ... opening up the cul-de-sacs and just bringing the streets straight through to Berteau," Nitti said.

The developer's team justified its request for narrower parkways between the curb and sidewalks by claiming the entire subdivision would need to be reconfigured without the variance.

Nitti said the team did look at an earlier option using Avon Road that would not need a variance, but resulted in less varied lot sizes and shapes as well as less green space.

"Both Elmhurst and Second Street to the west are 50 feet in width as well as Berteau, Clinton and Geneva to the east. So it's not out of context within the neighborhood," said Bryan Rieger from V3 Companies.

Flood mitigation

Rieger told the commission Nitti plans to pave the new street with permeable pavers and create some type of individual lot detention to improve stormwater management.

Rieger explained that the property now is about 95 percent impervious surface. Transforming it from a hospital site to a residential neighborhood will leave about 50 percent of the property impervious.

"Basically the whole roadway acts as a drain," Rieger said.

He explained the proposed permeable street would still have inlets for major storm events, but they would be a little more spread out.

Because the property sits at the top of a hill, residents at the bottom of the hill on Pine Street worried about how changes to the property might affect them during storms.

"What we're trying to do is reduce the amount of water that's going to those areas," Rieger said.

He said the proposal does not create new connections into the storm sewer but tries to limit the amount of water that enters the storm sewer by increasing green space and infiltration opportunities.


Overall, Rieger said, the completed subdivision will reduce stormwater runoff for the site by 64 percent during a 100-year storm event.

John Belcher of Elmhurst-based JMB Architects addressed concerns about "cookie-cutter" homes. Belcher, who grew up in Elmhurst, explained that the varied lot sizes will allow for even more variety between homes.

"I think we can really pull it off if we give it diversity, if we give it style and we look at the whole tradition of the town," Belcher said of the proposed subdivision.

He showed four examples of different homes that could be built in the subdivision, but explained his team is still looking at other ways to create variety by moving garages or using different materials.

"It devalues the whole neighborhood if we have too many of the same thing," Belcher said.

Nitti plans to price the 56 single-family homes between $750,000 and $1 million.

Resident concerns

The majority of residents who spoke at the meeting expressed support for a new development replacing the vacant hospital. They did, however, share concerns about how demolition of the hospital will impact their community, from construction vehicles to worries about asbestos in the building.

Nitti's attorney, Kenneth Florey, said the developer plans to work closely with the city during demolition and follow all requirements.

Other residents worried the proposed street's two intersections on Berteau Avenue could create traffic concerns.

Nitti previously met with the group of neighbors who used to meet regularly with the hospital and said he plans to continue the relationship during the two-year project.

"Every project we do, we look out for everyone's best interest," Nitti said.

The Zoning and Planning Commission will deliberate on the application April 17.