Land now used for repairing Army trucks, training soldiers and storing weapons can be transformed into senior housing, light retail and industrial facilities-that is, if the National Guard ever decides to move off the 40-acre property.
Two North Riverside boards, the Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, have recommended that the National Guard’s North Riverside Armory, which the village annexed in 2004, can be zoned for redevelopment. The zoning issue was expected to be approved the village Board of Trustees at its meeting April 16.
The decision might be moot, however, as an Army official said last week that the military doesn’t ever plan to vacate. The Army and National Guard use the property, west of First Avenue and north of Cermak Road, as a home for vehicle maintenance and storing ammunition. The base is home to the National Guard’s 1244 Transportation Company, 205th Medical Battalion, and other units.
“We are going to be there a very long time; it’s not our intent to leave,” said Lt. Col. Randy Scott, director of facilities and engineering, for the Department of Military Affairs-Illinois.
North Riverside annexed the property in 2004, and then fought a two-year legal battle with neighboring Broadview about who has legal rights to the land. A federal judge sided with North Riverside in 2006.
“They lost. I doubt if they’ll appeal again,” said Guy Belmonte, North Riverside’s village administrator. The base belongs to North Riverside if the Army ever moves on, he said.
According to a 2002 memo included in the lawsuit documents, the National Guard’s license to occupy the property expires in March 2009. That license will be extended, Lt. Col. Scott told The Landmark.
“I believe the lease term with the federal government, which owns the land, was for 25 years,” Scott said. “I’m sure we’ll get at least another 25 years. Our long-term plans are to keep those units there. I don’t see us ever leaving.”
Regardless, Belmonte said the annexation was the right idea.
“This is something we may never see ourselves,” said Belmonte. “But it was great foresight to make sure the land belongs within our boundaries.”
The two boards agreed to recommend planned unit development zoning for the land. A PUD would allow many different types of uses on the property, and would give the village the ability more control of development. The village Board of Trustees was expected to approve the PUD zoning either at the April 16 meeting, or at a later meeting.
Mayor Richard Scheck had championed the move to annex the base, and said there are a number of uses he’d like to see for the property. There is one popular store that he says is not welcome.
“I had Wal-Mart calling me. They really want to go there, but I’ve told them no,” Scheck said. “That size store would have too much impact, in terms of traffic and noise, on the local residents. I’d like to see housing for seniors, and related retail services for them.”