Sycamore plans to limit number of new houses

By Justin Gallagher

Reacting to the tumult of last week’s decision to annex more than 700 homes, the Sycamore City Council chose to take the first steps to set a yearly limit of new homes allowed into the city into the municipal code.

The idea, currently in consideration form, essentially puts into written words what the council has been hinting toward all along – it wants no more than 250 new living units to enter the city each year. This applies only to new developments and allows already existing developments to expand if they so choose.

“It’ll give us guidelines for how to grow,” said Second Ward Alderman Pete Paulsen. “This is the tool.”

Although no formal action was taken at Monday’s meeting, the council unanimously concluded this is something the city needs and residents want. Having regulations in print and ready to hand to a developer is easy and avoids future conflict, City Manager Bill Nicklas said.

Another development conflict was also sorted out after Randy Yock of Territorial Development redrafted his plan for a 28-unit townhouse development between Farm and Fleet and its nearby residential developments.

Originally a 32-home development with some three-bedroom units, it now has only two-bedroom units.

The plot of land it is set to occupy proved difficult to sell as a commercial site, and Yock requested the council rezone the 4.6-acre plot to allow this development. Beyond acting as a place for people to live, it will also create a buffer between Farm and Fleet and the other nearby residential neighborhoods.

“Since I’ve been on the council, this has always come up,” said Fourth Ward Alderman Terry Kessler. “I think this is a good solution.”

The new development will have some sort of screening, either landscaping or fencing, to block the view of the big store, said Gary Cordes, a principal planner of the development.

The city also entered the first stage of setting its yearly property taxes. Still in consideration form, the council appears to be shooting for a lower tax rate with the goal of attracting more new businesses.

Nicklas, in a conversation with two of the city’s newest businesses, was told the city’s tax rate is unusually high. The initial tax breaks allowed them to come.

Nicklas wants an option that lowers the tax rate to its lowest since 1966, but other council members were concerned the city is trying to accomplish too much to forgo those funds.

Kessler noted the city’s sidewalks are in disrepair, and perhaps the money should go in that direction. First Ward Alderman Alan Bauer agreed it was something to consider.

“Tax rate is the tail that wags the dog,” Nicklas said, and the fact is, businesses want it lowered.

These comments were only part of a preliminary discussion, but expect Dec. 5’s meeting to solidify next year’s property taxes.