House size, price for proposed development on ex-factory site gives Batavia aldermen pause

A developer has proposed building 70 houses on the site of the former Siemens-Furnas factory, at McKee Street and Van Nortwick Avenue in Batavia.

A proposal to build 70 single-family houses on the site of the former Siemens-Furnas factory in Batavia got a lukewarm response Tuesday from aldermen and nearby residents, especially when they learned the size of the houses and that Pulte Home Co. expects them to sell for roughly $600,000.

Pulte wants the site, at McKee Street and Van Nortwick Avenue, zoned for high-density single-family detached housing. It is currently designated for mixed uses, including residential, office and retail.

Pulte has not formally submitted a rezoning request. A hearing on Tuesday was to help them gauge city officials’ reactions to the idea -- what some Batavia officials have nicknamed “the heart attack test.”

Matt Brolley, Pulte’s director of land planning and entitlements, said the product is for move-up buyers -- those leaving lower-priced smaller residences. He said the city’s development staff steered them away from suggesting townhouses. The city council rejected a townhouse plan in 2002 for the northern half of the site.

Brolley also said that potential buyers at another Pulte subdivision in Batavia, Winding Creek, have said they would prefer to purchase large homes closer to Batavia’s downtown. Winding Creek is west of Randall Road.

The Siemens-Furnas site is about a half-mile from the downtown.

The two-story houses would be 2,400 to 3,200 square feet on lots about 50 feet wide.

Alderman Mark Uher, in whose ward the site sits, said he was shocked when he heard the price.

“How are we drawing younger people into Batavia?” he said. Uher said he would rather see higher density with lower home prices.

“I would rather see something that is going to allow for the Gen Z to Millennials to be able to get into our community,” he said. “We’re reducing our mix of housing when we are pumping in such high-priced housing. We’re turning into a community of seniors and the wealthy.”

“Everything looks pretty good at first, but I had some of the same concerns (as other aldermen). You’re going to build giant houses on little tiny postage-stamp lots,” Alderman Christopher Solfa said. “I’m kind of turned off.”

But Alderman Nick Cerone said he trusts the developer wouldn’t offer this product if it didn’t think it would sell.

Resident Amy Pavnica, who lives a half-block east of the site, criticized the “cookie-cutter” nature of the Pulte’s house designs. “We live in a very, very charming neighborhood,” she said, with a variety of house styles. Hers is more than 100 years old, she said. She questioned why it needed to be high-density.

Other residents said they worried about the effect on traffic around H.C. Storm Elementary School, which is to the north of the proposed development. They said they already have problems during pickup and drop-off times.

The Siemens-Furnas plant was on the south half of the site from the 1940s until it closed in 2006. The buildings were torn down in 2009.