Prospect Heights aldermen voted 3-2 Monday to grant preliminary approval to a controversial 69-unit townhouse development on a nearly 10-acre site that includes the former Jolly Fun House Academy property and a potential land swap with the Prospect Heights Park District in the neighboring John Muir Park.
City officials have said final approval of the development would still be months away.
Aldermen Wendy Morgan-Adams, Patrick Ludvigsen and Matthew Dolick expressed confidence that the Lexington Homes proposal represented the best potential for redevelopment at 1001 Oak Ave. But fellow aldermen Michelle Cameron and Kathleen Quinn argued the project wasn't what neighbors wanted and was likely too dense.
"I just can't imagine putting that many units in that little area," Cameron said.
But Morgan-Adams said her own research concurred with what Lexington Homes officials said: that the finances of redeveloping the site didn't support single-family homes or a significantly smaller number of townhouse units.
"The best use of the land is what we're talking about," she said. "I think people are just being misinformed."
The former Jolly Fun House Academy site is 5.23 acres, but the developer's proposed land swap with the park district would expand it to 9.72 acres, of which 64.2% would remain dedicated open space.
Members of the city's plan/zoning board had previously recommended every aspect of the proposal except a variance reducing the required separation of four of the 12 buildings from the northern property line from 50 feet to 25 feet.
But the 3-2 vote also approved that request, with Lexington promising to build a solid fence and heavily landscape its border with the existing single-family homes to the north on Drake Terrace.
Six neighbors and an attorney representing others criticized the proposal during the meeting. Among the complaints was that the development had an implied reliance on a tax increment financing district to fund such public improvements as drainage and off-site sidewalk extensions, yet no such TIF district was proposed Monday.
City Administrator Joe Wade said he believed Prospect Heights was handling the requests in the correct order, and that there would be no point in establishing a TIF district if the land use itself were rejected.
Prospect Heights Park District Executive Director Christina Ferraro said her board of commissioners has not yet discussed a land swap in detail. They meet Nov. 17.