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Fox River Grove apartment project awaits permits before continuing construction

A man walks past the foundation walls of a five-story, 100-unit apartment building in downtown Fox River Grove on May 2, 2022, Work has stopped on the building after developers received a demolition permit in August and a limited permit in November that allowed the construction of footings for the building and foundation walls. That work is now complete and work cannot continue until the village signs off on the final plans.

Fox River Grove resident Tony Suchy used to see the Bettendorf Castle from his home.

Now, he sees an unfinished structure that developers hope will be a five-story, 100-unit apartment building but Suchy thinks looks like “an ugly concrete monster.”

Work on the apartment complex, which is being developed by Grove Residences LLC at 401 Algonquin Road near Route 14, has stopped with only the concrete frames of the first two floors and the underground parking lot constructed.

That’s all the village has approved so far. To take the next step, the village needs to sign off on the final plans.

Developers submitted the plans, which staff reviewed, and now the village is waiting for the developers to submit the revisions for final approval, Village Administrator Derek Soderholm said.

Soderholm listed more than half a dozen categories the plans needed approval for, including fire, plumbing, electrical, engineering, energy, codes and landscaping.

Kirk Rustman, a representative for the development company, said it’s common for developers to begin construction before the final permits are approved. Once the permit is approved, he said construction would take roughly 10 months.

“We are looking forward to getting going again soon,” Rustman said. “Every aspect of planning has its own challenges, but we’ve worked through the system and it’s going to be a good project for the whole community.”

The foundation walls of a five-story, 100-unit apartment building in downtown Fox River Grove on May 2, 2022. Work has stopped on the building after developers received a demolition permit in August and a limited permit in November that allowed the construction of footings for the building and foundation walls. That work is now complete and work cannot continue until the village signs off on the final plans.

Soderholm said he’d been in communication with the developers about once a week, including Tuesday afternoon, working through plan revisions.

“Hopefully, we will have a final approval soon,” Soderholm said. “But we don’t know what the exact timeline will be.”

Soderholm said he was “optimistic” that the process would be completed in time for construction to begin again at some point by June.

While Rustman did not expect the overall timeline for construction to change much, the main reason for a delay in construction was more due to weather than anything else.

“We are hoping it can stop raining, and we can start up and do an efficient job,” Rustman said.

The foundation walls of a five-story, 100-unit apartment building in downtown Fox River Grove on May 2, 2022, Work has stopped on the building after developers received a demolition permit in August and a limited permit in November that allowed the construction of footings for the building and foundation walls. That work is now complete and work cannot continue until the village signs off on the final plans.

Whatever the cause for the delay may be, some residents like Suchy are frustrated.

“The apartment thing is ugly as sin right now, nothing but rusted metal and boxes just sitting there,” Suchy said. “How do you start a project of that magnitude, then have it held up because of permits?”

The developers received a demolition permit in August and a limited permit in November that allowed the current foundation to be built.

Because the scope of the project is larger than any other recent building project in Fox River Grove, Soderholm said it was difficult to gauge how unusual it was for a developer to working through plan revisions for months even after beginning construction.

The foundation walls of a five-story, 100-unit apartment building in downtown Fox River Grove on May 2, 2022, Work has stopped on the building after developers received a demolition permit in August and a limited permit in November that allowed the construction of footings for the building and foundation walls. That work is now complete and work cannot continue until the village signs off on the final plans.

McHenry County Board member Joe Gottemoller, a Crystal Lake-based attorney who specializes in zoning and development issues, agreed with Rustman that it was not unusual for a developer to begin foundation work prior to receiving the final permits.

He said what was unusual about this particular project was how high the initial foundation construction was.

“They weren’t just digging a hole here,” said Gottemoller, who has represented the owners of Bettendorf Castle, one of the residents frustrated by the project, in an unrelated matter. “That doesn’t mean they can’t build higher. And I suspect there’s places where that is done regularly, but not around here.”

One concern raised by residents, including Suchy, was that the Fox River Grove Fire Protection District, which has a station next door to the unfinished apartment building, wasn’t equipped to handle potential issues atop a five-story structure.

Fox River Grove Fire Chief Robert Kreher confirmed that the department did not have a ladder that size, but said his real concern was the project’s size.

“There’s no other apartments the size or scale of that in the village,” Kreher said, noting the village currently has no buildings over three stories tall. “We’re going to get calls, everything from fire alarms to burnt food, people stuck in elevators. It’s definitely going to have an impact.”

The fire district had not yet reviewed the plans for the building to assess its fire risk, Kreher said.

The apartment complex originally was part of larger plans to redevelop property on both sides of Route 14, which involved the village using eminent domain to take over several parcels.

A different developer now is attached to plans for mixed-use development near Fox River Grove Village Hall, Soderholm said.

Conceptual plans for the latter project were presented to the Village Board at its meeting Tuesday night.