GENEVA – Geneva aldermen Monday approved a second extension of a site plan for an apartment and commercial project at the former Duke & Lee’s Service Station. The plan originally was approved Aug. 17, 2020.
Aldermen voted 7-2 with one absent to approve the one-year extension. Fifth Ward Alderman Robert Swanson and 1st Ward Alderwoman Tara Burghart voted no. First Ward Alderman Michael Bruno was absent.
The mixed-use building at 609 S. Third St. is to have 60 apartments, 6,014 square feet of commercial space and 63 off-street parking spaces, Assistant City Administrator Benjamin McCready said.
“The Geneva zoning ordinance allows site plan approval to be effective for one year unless a building permit has been issued and construction has commenced,” McCready said.
The site plan approval previously was restated and extended last year to Oct. 4, 2022, McCready said.
“The owner has submitted a second request to restate the previous approval and to extend the deadline to obtain building permits and begin construction by another year,” McCready said.
A letter from Sumac Jupiter JV to Community Development Director David DeGroot stated the company has a new owner who wants to sell the site to another developer.
“We have had two offers that unfortunately didn’t come to a successful purchase and each process took three to four months to complete,” according to the letter from Juan Jose Crespo, principal of the limited liability corporation that now owns the property. “As part of my duties and commitment to the project and the city of Geneva, we are working on a new strategy for us to develop the project ourselves or with a co-developer yet to be determined.”
Swanson asked if the city would be giving up its rights to due diligence on the details of a second developer.
“We don’t approve developers,” DeGroot said. “We approve projects. … Our due diligence is our review process through our development staff team, the planning commission and the City Council.”
Swanson said in this case, the city may not know who the new developer – if there is one – might be.
DeGroot said if the owners sell it, the staff would have a similar contact with a new developer.
“It’s been under contract twice over the past year and each of those developers has reached out to city staff to get a good understanding of the project, to make sure they understand where it stands with the city,” DeGroot said. “What utility obstacles there are, all of that. I suspect if they do sell it, we will have similar contact with a new developer moving forward.”
Swanson said the council has extended the site plan once.
“At some point, we have to say perhaps this project wasn’t meant to be,” Swanson said. “We’re not closing the door on anything, we’re just saying enough is enough. It’s been two years. Let’s put it to bed.”
“It’s been a very unique two years, though, in the construction industry,” DeGroot said.
Fifth Ward Aldermen Craig Maladra said if the council does not approve the extension, it’s saying, “I don’t like this developer.”
“That’s not in our purview,” Maladra said. “Our purview is do we approve of the proposed use of the property. My question would be, what do we benefit by not extending this? … As long as whoever owns that property creates that project that we approved, then I think we’re good. I don’t see how we benefit by vetting the developer and saying, ‘I don’t like you, so I’m not going to approve this thing I already approved two years ago.’”
Fourth Ward Alderman Gabriel Kaven said he would like to see something developed there and not give extensions after extensions.
“But the last two years – I’m still comfortable with doing this today and hoping that something gains traction and they’re not back asking again,” Kaven said.
Second Ward Alderman Bradley Kosirog said he sees the site plan as a selling point to market the property.
“If we want it developed, we should continue to allow a site plan approval that was done, help them market it. If they want to do their own thing, great. No problem, start from scratch,” Kosirog said. “I do not get what the opposition is.”
Fourth Ward Alderwoman Amy Mayer said she has had a lot of construction projects stalled in the past two years. Extending the site plan approval another year can save this owner or a new one at least four months in the process.
“If you want the project to start, you should have the site plan approval already in the bag,” Mayer said.