City Council votes “no” on Irongate annexation

By Ali Combs

The long-debated Irongate annexation was officially turned down at Monday’s City Council meeting.

With comments from former mayor Bessie Chronopoulos, local landlord Paul Saucer, neighbors to the proposed Irongate land, and a speaker from the Park District all opposing the ShoDeen development, council members turned down the opportunity to bring Irongate to a first reading with a 4-4 vote, nixing the proposal’s possible passage. In order to move forward, the proposal would have needed a supermajority approval of six votes in favor.

Chronopoulos raised the concern that the developer could, in the future, change the makeup of homes in the development to include more rental homes like townhouses. City attorney Dean Frieders cleared up confusion on this subject.

“As the agreement is drafted, for example, the limit on the number of townhouses not only a part of the P.U.D., it’s part of the annexation agreement itself,” Frieders said, “so if a future council chose to look at revising that, they could, but it would require public hearing, an amendment to the annexation agreement, and a supermajority vote. So, are amendments to the P.U.D. possible in the future? Yes. Are amendments to the P.U.D. possible without City Council’s approval? No.”

Fourth ward alderman Bob Snow was one of the four council members who supported the annexation. He said although there is doubt about the project, moving forward with it would be the best option.

“Surrounding communities are not going to wait…,” Snow said. “As much as I’d like for DeKalb to remain a small community, it’s going to grow, and it’s going to grow at its own pace.”

Citizens and council members alike raised concerns about the number of available homes and lots already existing in DeKalb and questioned the need for a new housing development. Third ward alderman Kristen Lash said there are between 300 and 400 vacant lots in DeKalb and more empty lots is not what the city needs.

“I understand that [DeKalb] needs to grow, but I think that we have room to grow right now,” Lash said. “The point being that that growth just isn’t happening. There is a ton of houses out there on the market right now. There is well over 300 empty lots…, and they’re just not getting built out.”

Second ward alderman Bill Finucane echoed what Snow said, acknowledging the work that needed to be done while noting the progress that’s been made and a need for new development.

“I’ll agree that not all the Is are dotted and not all the Ts are crossed,” Finucane said, “but certainly closer to an agreement than we were with the previous council six months ago.”

Fifth ward alderman Ron Naylor and Mayor John Rey voted “yes” alongside Finucane and Snow.