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Crystal Lake City Council likes residential proposal for land near downtown

Developer will continue to work on project

CRYSTAL LAKE – A developer is moving forward with plans for a new neighborhood off Main Street near downtown Crystal Lake.

Kenneth Rawson presented his plan to the Crystal Lake City Council on Nov. 21 for a 62-acre chunk of land north of the Crystal Lake Business Center on the east side of Main Street.

And although the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission members were not in favor of the plan when it was presented earlier this month, City Council members liked it.

“It was way past night and day,” Rawson said, comparing the opinions of the council with the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission, which appreciated the architectural designs but was not in favor of putting a dense residential development at the site.

“I couldn’t have asked for it to go better,” Rawson said.

The preliminary plan calls for 360 living units consisting of single-family homes, New England-style row houses and townhouses. It’s aimed at meeting the needs of three different types of homebuyer – the 55-and-older crowd who doesn’t want to live in a senior community, millennials looking for their first or second home and those looking to downsize.

Rawson cited data showing that the aging population in the Crystal Lake area is looking to stay here but wants to downsize and live an active lifestyle. More than 42 percent of the 111,220 people in and around Crystal Lake that Rawson’s research included are age 55 and older.

The neighborhood would feature common areas, dog parks and water fountains.

City Council members had some opinions about changing the neighborhood’s density and traffic flow, but they largely were in support of it, Mayor Aaron Shepley said.

“Overall, I think it would be very beneficial for Crystal Lake on the whole, but downtown Crystal Lake specifically,” Shepley said.

Although planning and zoning commissioners did not speak favorably of the project during the informal meeting in early November, it doesn’t mean the project can’t progress. The commission is appointed by the mayor and City Council. Shepley said he thinks the commission did exactly what he and the council wants it to do, adding that he completely respects its thoughts on the proposal.

“If anything, the divergence between our opinions shows neither I or anyone else does anything to influence the Planning and Zoning Commission,” Shepley said. “We want them to keep doing what they’re doing. Sometimes we have perfect alignments on matters and sometimes not.”

Shepley said the neighborhood would be close to a lot of amenities, the downtown area and the Route 14 corridor. He also said it could help attract younger, would-be commuters who work in Chicago and want to hop on the train at the nearby Metra station.

The next step at the city level for Rawson is to seek annexation and zoning approvals, but he did not yet have a time frame for when he and his team would be in front of the city again at a meeting.

He said it’s a lot of work to get everything ready for a formal proposal, so it might be awhile.

Rawson has an agreement with the land’s ownership group based on city approvals of his proposal. Most of the property would have to be annexed to the city and rezoned from manufacturing to residential.

If the project is greenlighted, the group would sell the land to Rawson.

“It’s the right product at the right time in the right place,” Rawson said.

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