Why three Roscoe trustees voted to allow townhomes in Hawks Pointe and three didn't
The Board of Trustees were evenly divided, 3-3, on whether to rezone a parcel on Roscoe Road from Commercial to MultiFamily Residential. Developer Josh Petry wants to build The Townhomes of White Oak on the 16-acre property at Roscoe Road and Old River Road, in clusters of four homes, and then sell them to investors who would rent them out.
Trustees Carol Gustafson, Sue Petty, and Michael Dunn voted against the rezoning request. They were sympathetic with the adjacent Hawks Pointe residents at the meeting, who wanted single-family homes instead, concerned about increased traffic and suspicious of neighbors who lack the pride of home ownership.
Trustees Stacy Mallicoat, Justin Plock, and Anthony Keene voted in favor of the rezoning request. Mallicoat, who became a trustee earlier than the others, claimed that the Village of Roscoe has had a history of "stonewalling" on businesses, citing Walmart and Amazon as examples, and losing potential tax revenue. Plock claimed that if Roscoe didn't support the development, nothing would keep Petry from asking Rockton to annex the property instead. In fact, the Village of Roscoe could keep Petry from doing that, since the property has already been annexed into the Village.
Though the Committee of the Whole's 3-3 vote will send the rezoning request to the full board for a Mar. 15 vote, the request goes with neither a positive nor negative recommendation. In other words, they didn't officially approve it. However, since the Committee is made up of the same members as the Village Board, they are basically sending the request to themselves, and unless they change their minds by Mar. 15, their votes presumably would be the same. One difference: Village President Mark Szula, though he seemed to favor the development, couldn't vote at the Committee of the Whole meeting, but at the regular board meeting on Mar. 15, he could cast the tie-breaking vote.
What the Village hasn't done yet
Scott Sanders, Village Administrator for Roscoe, serves as chair of the Committee of the Whole. He stressed, "We are not reviewing or approving the development." Later, if the zoning change is approved and before the development can be approved, the Village would review Josh Petry's plans, including adequate storm water management and traffic control.
Winnebago County Engineer Carlos Molina, who happens to live in Hawks Pointe, has already seen Petry's tentative drawings. He says the new street within the subdivision would have to be approved by the Village of Roscoe. But the County would have to sign off on the development's access to Roscoe Road and Old River Road, since they are both County roads.
Sanders told Rockton-Roscoe News, "The results of these studies will allow the County Highway Department to determine the scope of any improvements that need to be made to either road.... The developer would likely be required to pay for any improvements. The County could potentially participate if they felt the improvements would have a greater benefit than just to serve the proposed development. I believe the County is already currently in the process of completing an intersection study at Roscoe and Old River completely independent of this proposed development."
Some of the trustees supporting the rezoning said it would give the Village control over how the property is developed, warning that Petry could put in a strip mall or a tattoo parlor. But the property has been zoned as commercial for 30 years, and Sanders said, "I think 30 years in, it is safe to say there is not commercial interest in this property."
Mallicoat argued that since the property shouldn't be zoned commercial, changing it to multi-family residential would fix that problem. But trustees who see multi-family zoning as a problem in itself weren't convinced, since it wouldn't lead to single family homes.
Josh Petry has not requested any variances from the Village's ordinances. Sanders says his proposal follows the existing code and even follows new code. Also, the ordinance requires a 15 foot "transition yard" between the townhome development and the existing homes on Goosedown Drive. But Petry is proposing to allow a 30 foot landscaped transition yard.
The Folks from Hawks Pointe
During the public comment sections of the meeting, a Hawks Pointe resident said, "Renters don't take up roots in the community, they don't expect to be here long-term. They change and move on... We're not opposed to doing something with the cornfield. We like the cornfield, but in the end, put something in that's representative of the rest of the community."
Several Hawks Pointe residents said they were concerned that rental units will result in increased crime, quoting police statistics indicating that the Roscoe Police had been called out to the apartments at Clearwing much more often than to the homes of Hawks Pointe.
Patty Trotter on Goosedown Drive, the mother of seven children, two of them neighborhood bike riders, said her main concern is safety. Since Hawks Pointe has no sidewalks, she was "very concerned about the increased traffic that will come." She believed that when the new street is added, drivers would start cutting through her neighborhood.
Several Hawkes Pointe residents claimed that Petry Home Builders was agreed to donate park land as part of their subdivisions.
In response, Scott Sanders said, "I have no knowledge whatsoever that Petry was ever supposed to construct a park in Hawkes Pointe." The Village's park goals do not require a park within every subdivision.
Petry was allowed to dedicate park land for what is now Chicory Ridge Park, after the land was judged unsuitable for residences and after a child drowned in the pond there. Many water activities are still prohibited now, but the Village of Roscoe dedicated new playground equipment in 2019.
Sanders added, "Petry has recently donated to the Village three adjacent parcels located centrally in the Denali Heights subdivision," but Sanders said, "This donation... is in no way connected to any previous 'agreements,' real or otherwise." Instead, it is part of the settlement agreement that was finally concluded after eight years of inaction.
The Roscoe Village Board is likely to start making plans for next year to develop the Denali Heights park land, though parks aren't cheap. Sanders said children in Hawkes Pointe could reach the future park by bike without crossing a major street.
The Trustees in Opposition
Trustee Carol Gustafson said she felt they were being given a "forced choice" between commercial and multi-family zoning, since if they voted against the zoning change, the developer might have to come back with a different plan. Of course, the Hawkes Pointe residents would prefer a single-family plan.
Gustafson went on record as saying, "I do not support multi-family, I do not see that as our vision for that area. I will not support a change in zoning. That's me."
Sanders had previously noted that the county has already requested a Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), also called a 'traffic study,' for both proposed access points. Sanders said at the time, "If the county did not, then we would."
Trustee Michael Dunn asked, "Why are we proposing the changes right now if the traffic study is scheduled? Can't we see what the traffic study says first?" When he had visited Hawkes Pointe a few days earlier, the residents all said that safety was their main concern. Dunn concurred: "I had a women killed in my front yard in Prairie Ridge" and he said the neighborhood would be more congested during trick-or-treating.
Trustee Stacy Mallicoat said, "I can tell you, every single subdivision across that river has had the exact comments made about it. And it's turned out just fine, because you live there!" (Most of the trustees live in subdivisions across the Rock River, especially Chicory Ridge.) He continued, "This is our chance to get rid of Commercial General and get it back to Residential, which is what it should be."
Dunn asked why they needed to rush into a decision when the Village was planning to hire a consultant to revised their master plan. Szula responded, "Well, we need to work with what we have." Sanders agreed that they did need to vote. After all, since Roscoe hasn't banned multi-family zoning outright, they needed to consider Josh Petry's request.
Asked why he asked for multi-family zoning, Josh Petry said, "I chose multi family because I have absolutely no intention of competing with my father." His father Jeff Petry is the developer of Denali Heights, and reportedly the business relationship between the two men has become strained. Josh Petry was asked if the buildings could be sold as condominums. Petry replied that he couldn't predict what the buyers might do with the properties. "Anything can be rented," he said.
Impact of Impact Fees
If The Townhomes of White Oak is built, at least Josh Petry will be paying impact fees to Rockton School District, something which hasn't really happened before. Previous subdivisions were platted and recorded before Roscoe adopted its impact fee ordinance, about 2007 or 2008. Scott Sanders says that the Rockton School District is excited to finally receive impact fees from a subdivision. Sanders explains, "These fees are based upon the density table established by the initial ordinance and updated annually to reflect CPI adjustments. Impact fees are paid to the school districts and are assigned specifically to new facility construction or land acquisition. Fees are generally paid at the time of each application for zoning/building permits."