Arlington Heights trustees on Monday formally approved plans for a five-story, 76-unit apartment building east of downtown, a month after giving the developer nearly $1 million over the next eight years in tax increment financing funds for the project.
And though only one trustee voted against variances for the project on the northwest corner of Kensington Road and Hickory Avenue, other village board members joined him in calling on the developer to include some cheaper apartments, instead of a $275,000 fee in lieu of that village requirement.
What began as a standard board review of a real estate development Monday night turned into a larger discussion on affordable housing in Arlington Heights.
"All I have as a trustee is my vote and my philosophy," said Trustee Mike Sidor, who voted "no," and has criticized developers in the past for paying a fee instead of providing less-costly units in their projects.
The village's affordable housing policy requires 15 percent of units to be below market rate, but they can pay a $75,000-per-unit fee instead to a village-controlled trust fund. In recent projects -- including the Hickory/Kensington project -- that amount has been negotiated down to $25,000 per unit.
"I feel the same as Trustee Sidor," said Trustee Thomas Glasgow. "At what point do I have to start voting 'no' on really great projects in order to make a point -- you have to put some affordable housing here. ... We've got to have it in Arlington Heights, period."
Developer Guido Neri told trustees it ultimately comes down to financials and the project pro forma, but that he would revisit plans to maybe incorporate some cheaper units, if not in this building, in a contemplated "twin" apartment building just to the west. Neri has that property, now leased to Mariano's for employee parking, under contract.
The project approved Monday calls for a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom units with rents ranging from $1,550 to $2,115. The building would include 3,450 square feet of first floor commercial space for retailers and offices, though no tenants have been secured yet. Construction could be complete by the end of 2019.
The village will pay $800,000 to the developer to extend Campbell Street west from Hickory and make streetscape improvements along Hickory and Kensington, while the village will pay $700,000 for a parcel of land to the north targeted for future development, according to a redevelopment agreement approved by the board June 18.
Mayor Tom Hayes said he shared concerns of the need for more affordable housing, but with other board members, agreed Neri's project shouldn't be held up. Hayes said the village has met federal requirements on affordable housing stock, but added, "we can always do better and the consensus of the board is we should do better."
The village has already commissioned a housing study for this fall to help address the issue, said Village Manager Randy Recklaus.