Naperville city officials live by the ‘Golden Rule’; he who has the gold makes the rules. The City of Naperville has the gold in the form of tax dollars, and ordinances, so it’s not often that the Naperville city council gets snookered. It happened last month when a townhome development was approved 7-1 by the council. The lone ‘no’ vote was caste by councilwoman Rebecca Obarski. Council member Patty Gustin was not present for the vote.
The original 30-townhome project, which residents fought against, was proposed by Oak Creek Partners, and presented by local attorney Len Monson. Ultimately the project was compromised down to 22 units. Residents were more than concerned that a development of that size would be too dense for the residential area and drastically change the overall peacefulness of the neighborhood. What was not known by residents, and supposedly council members, at the time of the vote was that Oak Creek Partners had plans to buy a piece of land directly across the street and build an additional six units, bringing the total to 28.
The parcel of land was zoned for town-homes and didn’t require approval from the council. Local attorney Len Monson representing Oak Creek Partners wasn’t legally required to disclose the additional information to residents or the council. It was Monson’s job to get approval for the 22-unit project, and that’s exactly what he did. It was the Naperville city council’s job to know exactly what they were voting for, and apparently they didn’t.
I say ‘apparent’ because if they did know about the additional 6 units, it would have been more difficult for them to approve the 22 unit project. Maybe they didn’t want to make it more difficult for themselves because rather than having some residents upset with the council, they would have had many residents very upset with the council. It’s also possible that the council would have approved the 22-unit development even with the additional information.
City staff could have helped the council by providing that additional information. By not doing so, they set-up the council to look foolish. If city staff did provide that information to council members, then in a sense the Naperville city council was involved in a cover-up against residents by approving the 22 unit project. Either way, it doesn’t make the Naperville city council look good. They are either a bit incompetent, or a bit ‘looking-the-other-way’, neither of which are characteristics of strong leadership.
Two things are for certain. 1) local attorney Len Monson outsmarted the Naperville city council. 2) sooner or later he will appear again in front of the city council seeking approval for another project. That could be interesting.