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McHenry apartment complex proposal a point of dispute in aldermanic races

A potential 288-unit apartment development pitch that came before McHenry City Council earlier this year as a preliminary proposal has become a flashpoint in aldermanic races for the April 6 election.

Jeffrey Schaefer and Ryan Harding, who are the incumbent aldermen for McHenry’s 3rd and 4th wards, respectively, have conflicting stances on the possible multi-family housing, which is being explored by Wisconsin-based Continental Properties.

“I have a lot of issues with that,” Schaefer said of the project, which could come to North Richmond Road and Blake Boulevard, near a shopping center with an Aldi store.

Specifically, he does not want any roadway connecting the apartment property to Almond Lane and the nearby neighborhood off Riverside Drive, and thinks giving the apartment complex only one way in or out of the area via Richmond would cause traffic issues. He also said the unit count is a little too dense for his liking.

Harding, who was appointed to the council in 2020 and supports the project in its current form, said the city is in need of more quality rental housing.

“Rental properties go on the market and are rented in a day,” he said.

Christine Bassi, who is challenging Harding, disagrees.

“It doesn’t fit in the landscape of that community,” said Bassi, a lifelong McHenry resident who is seeking public office for the first time in the 4th Ward race.

If elected, Bassi said, she would not support providing any discounted impact fees to developers targeting McHenry.

Continental has asked the city to charge it lower developer fees as well as water and sewer connection fees for a multi-family housing project because the developer projects the property will use less water than is assumed by the city’s fee structure.

Frank McClatchey, who served three terms as a McHenry alderman in the 1980s and 1990s, is challenging Schaefer for the 3rd Ward office. He said he thinks the city needs more apartment dwellings but still has questions about how low the city should go with the impact fees charged to the project developer.

If elected, McClatchey said he would want the council to consider instituting some sort of fees or penalties on the owners of commercial properties holding big box stores, like the former Kmart site, that have sat empty for months on end, in hope they would be more motivated to find new business tenants.

“It could spur some of them to action,” said McClatchey, who ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois House District 63 seat as a Democrat in 1998 after serving the city. He also lost an aldermanic election to Schaefer in 2005.

Vic Santi, the incumbent 1st Ward alderman who is running as a write-in candidate after being removed from the ballot for failing to meet a deadline to turn in a statement of economic interest to the city, said he likes that idea, but isn’t sure about the logistics to make it work.

“I love the concept. I think that’s something that would be very tough to follow up in a court of law if it had to go that far,” Santi said.

Bobbi Baehne, the sole candidate on the ballot for the 1st Ward seat, declined to comment on the apartment complex because the city has not yet considered a formal proposal.

“Until we have real information, I think it’s irresponsible for me to give you a real answer,” she said. “And I’m not the type of person that’s going to just say what people want to hear because there is an election coming up.”

Santi provided a similar response on the apartment complex, saying it would be irresponsible for him to provide a clear stance at this point but he is open to the city staff fielding further proposals on the project and listening to the staff recommendations.

He said requests for discounted developer impact fees and water and sewer connections are “something I would listen to.”

“It’s part of a total negotiation process, which I believe [city] staff needs to harness, take care of and come back with a negotiated agreement that is best for the city and something they believe we can work with and the council can be comfortable with,” Santi said.

Earlier during the race, Baehne, who previously held the 4th Ward seat before resigning from the City Council due to a move she made within the city, changed her campaign’s Facebook page to say she was a “political candidate.” It previously said she was a “government official” and was edited after the Northwest Herald inquired about the title.

Santi in interviews has said he is the only elected official representing Ward 1 until at least April 6, and he hopes to be reelected for a fifth and final term, with no plans to run in a city election after next month.

Baehne has been endorsed by McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett, who is running for reelection with no opponent on the ballot.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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