The redevelopment of a former industrial site on the south side of Mount Prospect's downtown surfaced as an election issue Wednesday when village board hopefuls met during a candidates forum at village hall.
Village leaders are weighing a proposal called Maple Street Lofts that would include a six-story mixed-use building with 192 apartments, a seven-story building with 65 apartments and 56 row homes on the former site of Parenti and Raffaelli in the 200 block of East Prospect Avenue.
Proponents say the apartments will bring more residents downtown to support existing business and attract new ones. But critics, including some residents living nearby, say it will bring more traffic congestion and perhaps crowd nearby schools.
Augie Filippone, one of six candidates seeking three trustee seats in the April 2 election, noted he is a member of the village planning and zoning commission scheduled to consider the proposal Thursday. That means he will be the only candidate to cast a formal vote on the proposal before Election Day.
"Seeing as I'm going to be up here tomorrow, dealing with this issue, I'll reserve judgment until then," he said.
Incumbent Trustee Colleen Saccotelli said she is in favor of growing the downtown and bringing more people to the area.
"Density is needed in the downtown to get more businesses," she said. "People say that they want a market in the downtown. We're hearing from the business community that they are not going to come to our downtown because there are not enough people to support the businesses."
Fellow incumbent Trustee Paul Hoefert said he has supported other downtown apartment developments for similar reasons, but he is especially concerned about the density of the Maple Street Lofts proposal.
"Let's solve these problems ahead of time," he said. "Let's understand the concerns of that neighborhood and let's be sensible."
Challenger Yulia Bjekic went even farther in expressing reservations about the development. A self-described tax and real estate "nerd," she said she is concerned about whether there are too many apartments being built in Mount Prospect and neighboring suburbs.
"Des Plaines is on a spree of building a lot of multifamily (housing)," she said. "We have got 20 West, 10 North Main and other projects going up."
Until these issues, as well as a lack of affordable units and green space, are addressed, she said it isn't a good fit for the community.
Write-in candidate Jeffrey Nejdl said he is concerned about the reduction in commuter parking spaces for the nearby Metra station.
"I think that's a disservice to the train commuters and all the other commuters for that lot," he said.
But incumbent Trustee Richard Rogers disputed Nejdl's characterization of the parking situation.
"The existing parking is about 285 spaces. (That) will be reduced to 222, but an additional 50 spaces on the street parking, which are not available today," he said. "In addition, the garage right here on this building (at village hall) will be used for an additional 100 parking spaces. So it will be a much better situation in the future."