When the new townhome development currently under construction at the corner of East Burlington Street and Delaplaine Road in Riverside was unveiled earlier this year, everybody seemed to be extremely happy. The village was happy that it was getting a lower-density development than the one originally proposed, and the developers were happy that building fewer units would still bring plenty of money in exchange for their investment.
The love was palpable. Now we know that the love came with a $45,000 price tag.
Seems like the village’s Building Department gave verbal approval for a condominium building to be constructed on the site and then pulled its approval off the table at the last minute, sticking the developers with architectural and engineering plans that were worthless but still had to be paid.
The payoff for finally getting something built in Riverside must be worth it because with the three highest profile construction projects submitted by developers in the past year, the village has confounded all three developers with surprises well into the planning process of each.
The biggest of the three developments?”a proposed mixed-use retail/condo building slated for the former Henninger Pharmacy site at Longcommon and Burlington?”has run into the wrath of residents and government officials alike based on its proposed size and density.
While those kinds of criticisms are understandable, or even inevitable, what the developers should not have had to deal with was an end-around regarding the zoning code. Months into the process, the village changed its mind on what constituted the front of the development, basically nullifying all of the developers’ previous requests for setback variations.
In another important downtown development, the Arcade Building at Quincy Street and Riverside Road, the village in midstream changed its mind on a previous ruling regarding the need for a zoning variation for required parking spaces. That ruling will end up costing that developer another $150,000.
This isn’t to say that the village was wrong in coming to the conclusions they did. On the contrary, in all three, the village looks to have made the right call. They insisted on and got a lower-density development on Delaplaine, they have insisted on reconfigured plans that meet logical setbacks at the Henninger site, and they have addressed parking at the Arcade Building.
That’s fine. It’s a good thing if Riverside demands that certain standards be met by developers.
But to consistently mislead developers, even if unintentionally, by introducing changes in zoning interpretations or getting cold feet at the last minute on a development, is unfair to developers. As the settlement agreement the village just approved with the Delaplaine Crossing builders shows, last-minute denials can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
And the settlement agreement shows that developers are willing to fight back, which means that the losses could end up come out of taxpayers’ pockets.
That said, it looks like the village is trying to address those kinds of problems. Earlier this year, the village hired a new building director, and it is targeting Building Department service generally for improvement.
Riverside should be tough-minded when it comes to large-scale development in the village. But it also needs to be fair-minded. Let’s hope this recent “settlement” with the Delaplaine developer doesn’t repeat itself.