Opposition to new Cary apartments still fighting

CARY – Even though the Village Board has given its blessing to a proposed apartment complex at First and Pearl streets, there is still an active campaign to try to stop the $18 million 60-unit complex from going forward.

A website, carymatters.com, and a corresponding Facebook page includes an online petition with more than 700 signatures calling for the Village Board to reverse its decision on allowing the affordable housing apartment complex to be built by Pedcor Investments.

After vocal opposition to the project attended Tuesday's Village Board meeting, the Village Board now plans to discuss the project again at its July 15 meeting.

Cary-resident Jim Cosler started Cary Matters with the intention of it being a place for people to discuss topics about the project, he said.

He said he has walked through town and found that people are overwhelmingly against the project.

Cosler also said the zoning review of this project moved through quickly.

"The swiftness in which it happened has shocked residents," Cosler said.

He reiterated concerns that the Pedcor project would be right next to the Oak Knoll Apartments. Cosler said there are several other alternative places in town where the apartment complex could be placed, but he wouldn't be specific.

A crowd of people packed the Cary Village Board meeting Tuesday, many of whom were standing because there were no more seats available. They wore stickers that said "No Pedcor" and called for the Village Board to reverse its decision.

Michael Rein said this project would make it difficult for people to sell their houses.

Marty Collins had concerns about crime taking place.

Melissa Victor brought up concerns about Pedcor's reputation, and said there are companies with better standing.

To help make the project financially feasible, Pedcor is applying for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Applications for the next round of federal housing credits are scheduled to be awarded by the Illinois Housing Development Authority in the fall, probably October, said Cami Freeman, director of marketing and communication.

Freeman said the program is competitive.

During the past five years, projects requested 430 million tax credits, but only 170 million were awarded.

"It's a very rigorous approval process we go through for those tax credits," Freeman said.

When developers are awarded the tax credits, they sell them to investors in return for project equity. This allows developers to keep rents below market rates and lease to people who make up to 60 percent of the area median income.

The property's real-estate assessment however will be based on the rents it brings in. Those rents would be restricted, and therefore the property assessed lower when compared to a rental property without restricted rents, said McHenry County Chief Assessment Officer Bob Ross.

For 2012, the owners of the former manufacturing site paid about $25,700 in real estate taxes. The property's tax bill for 2013 was about $26,380.

Pedcor estimates it will pay $84,000 in property taxes, which will be split among area taxing districts.

Trustee Karen Lukasik, who along with Trustee Jeff Kraus, voted against the decision to allow the construction of the apartment complex and has encouraged residents to speak out.

She said she doesn't believe this is the right time to put in low-income housing in the village.

Pedcor is completing a project in Crystal Lake along Congress Parkway, which is primarily an office-building area.

Lukasik pointed out that Crystal Lake is booming with businesses including restaurants, entertainment and shopping. She said Cary needs more businesses first before bringing in low-income housing.

"I'm not saying I'm against low-income housing," Lukasik said during a phone interview. "I don't think Cary is in the position right now. ... We don't have a lot of storefronts and retail bringing in the revenue to support a complex that is low-income housing."

She added that she there is no way to know how many children will come in with the apartment complex and whether the school districts will be able to handle the extra kids.

"If they're low-income, they won't be able to spend $100 in some restaurants downtown," Lukasik said.

She also thought information provided was one sided and that the project could be a burden.

"I don't think enough research was done to make a [well]-educated decision for our future," Lukasik said. "This will effect us for years."

Village President Mark Kownick, who has written a letter of support of the project to IHDA, defended the project at Tuesday's meeting.

He said it is estimated the project would have 13 to 14 school children. Nine children would be in School District 26 and three in School District 155. Two children are expected to be preschool age. He does not believe it will cause an issue with class sizes in the District 26 and District 155.

"Believe me, they would tell us if there would be a problem with this," Kownick said. "They would come to us."

Kownick reiterated during this week's village board meeting Pedcor also has to pay $754,000 in impact and building permit fees, some of which will go to the districts 26 and 155, among other taxing districts.

The school districts would split $88,000 based on the percentage of children who go to their schools.

As part of those fees, $250,000 would go to the village for its municipal building fund.

He reiterated the extensive background checks residents would have to go through on Pedcor properties.

"We have an opportunity here to make sure we're going to provide a very nice working-class housing project for people that bag your groceries, [work as] dental assistants, people who work in workshops, people who work in factories," Kownick said. "These are people that are hardworking people. They go to work every day. They get a paycheck, they come home, pay their rent, pay their utilities, pay their car payment, pay everything. A majority of people who live there will be paying their rent up front."

Lynn Royales who has a 15-year-old daughter, lives in the Oak Knoll Apartments, which has been her home for 15 years.

The divorced mother said living in the apartment complex helped her go back to school and while she had three part-time jobs. She is now a medical assistant, being paid $15 an hour and is not on a housing choice voucher.

She is able to afford to have her daughter be a Girl Scout and send her to a camp in Tennessee, as well as take flute lessons, which allows her daughter to be in the marching band at Cary-Grove High School.

Royales stayed in the area because of the quality of education in District 26 and District 155.

Royales said she was horrified by the comments made by people who have opposed the Pedcor project, which also led to negative comments about Oak Knoll.

"What this boils down to me is they don't want Mexicans in their neighborhood," said Royales, who is white.

She said Oak Knoll has improved in recent years because of its new management. Royales added that although listening to construction behind her apartment will be unpleasant, she thinks more affordable housing is needed in town to help the working-class poor.

"It's a small price to pay if it means people not living in their cars, not living in the basement of their family's homes .... to be able to afford those people a [place] they can call their home," Royales said. "This is a home for people who have none."

Weigh-in on the project

People who want to comment on any proposed project requesting federal tax credits have until July 25 to submit letters to the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

IHDA Director of Marketing and Communication Cami Freeman said if the development authority receives protest letters, IHDA board members ask the developers how they have handled or plan to handle the issues.

Illinois Housing Development Authority
Attn: Multifamily Housing Department
401 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 700
Chicago, IL 60611

Conflict of interest

Trustee Bruce Kaplan has recused himself from the public meeting discussions on this project as he is the listing agent for the property, which is under contract and listed for almost $756,500. It was promoted as a multifamily site.

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