Berwyn council approves Ridgeland Estates development

The Berwyn City Council voted 6-2 on June 22 to approve Kasper Development’s revised plans for Ridgeland Estates, a 28-home subdivision on a 3.8- acre parcel of land in the 3000 block of South Ridgeland Avenue, adjacent to Freedom Middle School.

The project is down a house and a sidewalk since the City Council approved Kasper’s initial plans for 29 homes, starting at $400,000, on the parcel of land.

In addition to cutting the number of homes from 29 to 28, Kasper’s revisions decrease the size of backyards in the development’s south end and make a neighborhood homeowners association responsible for maintenance of a fenced stormwater detention pond. The pond replaces the underground stormwater vault Kasper initially proposed to build.

The June 17 “findings of fact” sent to City Council members state the city will be responsible for maintaining the three interior alleys in the subdivision.

Finally, the document cancels Kasper’s construction of a north-south sidewalk on city property immediately west of the subdivision.

Council members Joseph Carmichael (8th Ward) and Robert Pabon (5th Ward) opposed the project.

Ridgeland Estates sits within the boundaries of the Ridgeland Avenue Tax Increment Financing district. Council members already have agreed that the residential portion of the development will be removed from the TIF.

Berwyn’s Planning and Development Commission voted to approve the project March 17. The City Council followed with its approval April 26.

But Kasper was dealt a setback May 26, when the Berwyn South District 100 School Board voted against several measures the developer needed to break ground. The school board failed to pass Kasper’s plans, citing concerns about gentrification, density and traffic. After that May vote, Kasper revised its plans so that it could proceed despite the opposition of District 100.

Before the City Council’s June 22 vote, Alderman Robert Fejt (4th Ward) chastised the school board members who voted against the development, calling them shortsighted and motivated by politics rather than the school’s best interests.

“Sometimes you have to put politics aside and work together for the betterment of the community and the school district,” Fejt said.

Since the school was built, “various school boards have attempted to purchase this property many times without luck. Now it’s handed to District 100 on a platter and they vote it down,” Fejt added.

Ridgeland Estates has been shepherded through the approval process by the Berwyn Development Corp. The subdivision has been met at every step with vocal and written opposition from residents.

Residents repeatedly pointed to the city’s comprehensive plan, which designates a portion of the subdivision as green space.

At the District 100 meeting, resident concerns centered on gentrification and the wisdom of adding more than two dozen single-family homes to Berwyn, which is the most densely-populated city in Illinois.

Residents also expressed concerns about the safety of students walking to and from Freedom Middle School.

From the first Planning and Development Commission meeting months ago, residents speaking publicly against the development have outnumbered those in favor of it.

Fejt dismissed gentrification concerns, stating that 40 Berwyn homes have sold for more than $400,000 in the past nine months and of those, “three or four Latinx couples” had bought homes valued at more than half a million dollars.

As for traffic concerns, the Berwyn Development Corp. has referred to a traffic study indicating there wouldn’t be issues. Residents pointed out the study was done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and might not be accurate.

Under Kasper’s revised plans, 22 of the homes will have detached garages.