There is a proposed development on the corner of Park Blvd. and W Demeter Dr. by Park Partners LLC, owned by Steve Chesney (owner of the property for the development), Todd Weegens, and Bill Heils.  The developers are requesting the City to approve the re-zoning of the 6+ acres from R2 (single-family) to R5 (multi-family) and put 16 buildings or 32 high-end condominiums units on the property. 

Both the zoning board of appeals and the planning commission denied this rezoning and development proposal.  This shouldn’t even be with the City Council due to the denials but unfortunately, it is a part of the process to move forward.  The Mayor is pushing this project and possibly putting pressure on the Aldermen to do the same. There isn’t a need for this development but the City is quite anxious for, and not acknowledging the facts about it unless it fits in with supporting this project.

At the next City Council meeting, (August 2) they will vote on the rezoning as a separate issue from the overall development but in doing so, won’t even answer the question of how much money will this cost the taxpayers.  Talk about not doing their job and looking out for the taxpayer.  Shouldn’t we, at very least, have the answer to that question before having a vote on the rezoning of this property?  If anyone believes the developer when saying this won’t cost the city any money, well, I have a few things to sell you. As it was stated at the recent City Council meeting, the Council wants to address and solve the issues with the development after rezoning.  Why would you not take care of all of the questions and issues ahead of time instead of approving rezoning for the development creating a litany of problems?  

Once rezoning is approved for multi-family, the development, as it horribly appears, can significantly be changed to be even worse and something completely different than what is being represented, with approvals, of course, but not much will stop those approvals once the rezoning is completed.  Multi-family doesn’t fit this area.  All of the properties surrounding the proposed development property are single-family with larger lots from 1/3 acre and up, and a lot of green space in and around the yards and in between the properties.  The Freeport Club is a business and it is zoned differently.  The area is a park-like atmosphere that the new development absolutely will not have and won’t bring any kind of harmony to the neighborhood.  It apparently doesn’t matter that this property doesn’t fit the area.  In fact, the property as we all know it now will be leveled and destroyed.  The rezoning and the specific development really do go hand-in-hand despite how anyone wants to approach this for approval.  If the city council approves the R5 rezoning, this means you get the development and issues that come with it.  The rezoning and the development are without a doubt tied together.

The City Council and Mayor are not taking into consideration that there have been 5 condominium developments that all made promises to the City and all of them have under-delivered and are unfinished.  This is no small fact.  One of the unfinished projects is already near Krape Park called Fox Hollow on Marvin Lane.  This is a high-end development with a mix of single-family homes and condos.  Obviously, the developer doesn’t talk about this project.  Quail Ridge is another one of the unfinished condominium projects, but here the city had to spend thousands of your tax dollars on drainage issues (water and retention) due to the improper design. Developments as a whole don’t necessarily work the way that they were planned.  An example is Navajo Dr. (not a condo development) which also has drainage issues that will need to be fixed.  The City had already spent money on this issue but they seem to be repetitive and more taxpayer money needs to be spent to fix the issues.

Park Partners frequently compares two other condominium residences in order to push the rezoning for this property.  One is the Country Club Condos which is the closest to the property.  One corner of one building has a 30-foot setback, it is angled, stylized and many would say attractive; sunken, main parking underground, visitor parking, and has a private access road to the condos. This property is only a comparison due to them being condominium units.  The other example is the Parkview condo-like apartments on Church St.  These condos are on a similar-sized lot with a few more condos at 35 but this is where the similarity ends.  There are important differences.  The design is suited to the site.  Many units exit directly to Church Street, wider and less busy than Park Blvd.  An internal road and cul-de-sac run through the center of the remaining lots in the apartment complex.  All roads measure over 30-feet wide and have sidewalks.  The setbacks match or exceed those of the neighboring single-family homes.  It uses berms to screen views.  They have amenities such as programming, shared common space, and guaranteed access to long-term care.  

In order to properly determine whether R5 rezoning is appropriate, you have to look at more details than “should we put multi-family condominiums here or not” and deal with the consequences of any approval of the R5 rezoning later.  There is much more to look at and don’t forget about the previous condominium developments that were tried before and were unfinished.  Park Partner’s comparisons to other condominiums in the attempt to have supporting information to promote the R5 rezoning also fall short. The City Council is desperate for development and has said they hate to pass up development.  This is sad if a development like this is pushed forward for the sake of having new development and the tax money they think they’ll get.

Here is the reality about the tax revenue.  The tax revenue that is hyped will only be realized IF all units are sold and people begin paying those taxes immediately.  We all know that isn’t true and not how condo developments work.  It takes time to build these units and they are built as they are sold.  Only 10% of the taxes go to the city and seniors can get property tax relief which will also lower the tax base.  The amount the City gets isn’t enough to pay for roads, water, and sewer for this project, if the city pays for it.  So, that leaves more for the taxpayer to fund and what is that amount again?  Oh, that’s right, no one is bothering to get that information before voting on the rezoning or discussing it in any public meetings.

If the City Council votes for the zoning change, next comes the proposed development of 16 duplexes for a total of 32 units that include a long, private road (narrower at 28 feet), large 240 feet detention pond at the front along W Demeter Dr., reduced building setbacks at 30 feet to the road and other neighboring properties not matching the Krape area, and a gated community with the price tag of $200k+, $6,000 in property taxes, and HOA fees for people age 55+.  There will be no shared green space (the Freeport Club and Krape Park offers this), most or all of the mature towering trees will be cut (isn’t this why people like this area), no sidewalks or visitor parking. There is no parking on the street and there is a 2-car garage with a driveway that’s long enough for 1 1/2 average vehicles.  A laundry list of issues includes extreme density of the property and mostly paved, the costly installation of sanitary sewer, the personal cost to some of the residents on W Demeter Dr. who will be required at some point to tie into the sewer system, drainage of detention basin onto Park Blvd. (or possibly the neighbors’ properties in heavy rainfall events), increased traffic, road work and the removal of the tree line on Park Blvd. Because the data shows there is a small subset of people of this age and income group in Freeport (or migrating to Freeport), gives the possibility that the units will not all sell and this development is added to the list of unfinished developments. That makes this a RISKY endeavor – for the City, for the neighborhood, and for the Krape Park entrance.  This multi-family development just doesnít fit in with the neighborhood.  This is not a development that helps the City nor has it been proven there is any need for it.

I can write more on this to debunk any positives that the developer wants to promote but that would make this article too long.  My request for action from all of you is to contact all of the Alderman.  Let them know you don’t want the property on Park Blvd. and W. Demeter Dr. to be rezoned and you don’t want the development.  Their information is below.  Share the information and sign the petition.  The link for the petition is also below.  Please, please show up to the next City Council meeting on August 2 when the City Council is expected to vote on the rezoning of the property.

James Berberet, Alderman at Large….. 815-541-3966
Eric Borneman, 1st Ward Alderperson……815-275-2545
James Monroe, 2nd Ward Alderperson…..801-698-1659
Art Ross. 3rd Ward Alderperson…..815-541-5621
Donald Parker. 4th Ward Alderperson…..815-275-1372
Patrick Busker. 5th Ward Alderperson…..815-990-3798
Gregory Shadle, 6th Ward Alderperson…..815-232-6208
Dan Misek, 7th Ward Alderperson…..815-291-5150
Jodi Miller, Mayor……815-235-8200
Randy Bukas, City Manager…..815-235-8206

FINAL CHANCE and a MUST to be there MONDAY, AUGUST 2, 6:00 PM at City Hall, 314 W Stephenson St

Link to the Petition – SIGN and SHARE