O'Fallon Progress

Shiloh Planning Commission approves Hartman Lakes variance requests after long, heated public hearing

Compared to previous meetings where 10 to 20 people attended, attendees were more sparce during Monday, June 13 public hearing and planning commission meetings at Shiloh’s Senior Center at One Park Drive.
Compared to previous meetings where 10 to 20 people attended, attendees were more sparce during Monday, June 13 public hearing and planning commission meetings at Shiloh’s Senior Center at One Park Drive. rkirsch@bnd.com

After an hour long, heated public hearing at the Village of Shiloh Senior Center Monday night, the Shiloh Planning Commissionunanimously approved two variance requests for the proposed Hartman Lakes project in western Shiloh.

The Village Board of Trustees will consider both variances June 27 at its Committee at Large meeting.

“We can’t make the final decision on this — we just make recommendations for the Village Board of Trustees to consider when they make the final votes to grant the variance requests or not,” Planning Commission Chairman Vince Kwiatkowski said.

Board members John Lee and B.J. Berger were not present, leaving three members to quarterback the public hearing and meeting.

Kwiatkowski and board members Howard Steffey and Brian Manion were present.

According to the agenda packet provided by Shiloh Village Clerk Brenda Kern, there was a document dated May 5 from Hurford Architects Inc. to village trustees, stating two variance requests. The first variance requested to not have brick extend from ground level to the tops of window; and, the second, variance requested to utilize premium horizontal and vertical vinyl siding, cited from village ordinance 151.045 of the development code under appearance standards, which requires all brick to extend from the ground and up to the top of windows at a minimum; and, stucco, EIFS, full brick and mortar, full stone and mortar, cultured stone and mortar or tilt up concrete panels or HARDIE board type siding, not vinyl siding.

Both variances were fowarded to the village trustees for review by a unanimous vote of approval from the planning commission.

“The Hartman Lakes Community proposes to have 5.94 units per acre, far less than what is allowed per ordinance, and far less than many surrounding mutlifamily developments,” Glen Carbo- based Huford Architects Inc.’s Dan Hurford, said.

“The individual living units constructed at Hartman Lakes will be 324 units; however, the current village ordinance would allow 458 units,” he said.

The agenda for the public hearing and planning commission incorrectly listed ‘item no. 1’ as being easterly, instead of westerly as it should be listed, according to a resident Jean Thouvenot, who corrected the board for accuracy.

Thouvenot, who lives at 1410 Thouvenot Lane — on a property that has been in her family for over 100 years, said her current issue with the project centers around the visual aesethetics of the project.

Michelle Thouvenot said her property at 1408 Thouvenot Lane, and the adjoining farm field, wants the developer to follow the village’s ordiances requires a vegetation barrier between two different types of properties. They want the entire length of the development next to their family driveway to have a vegetation/landscaping barrier like tall trees, not just half of it.

“If this is an upscale community your building then I wouldn’t want to move there and look at my two barns, and I’m not taking them down,” Jean Thouvenot said when requesting the buffer zone be extended.

If this is an upscale community your building then I wouldn’t want to move there and look at my two barns, and I’m not taking them down.

Jean Thouvenot said, when requesting the buffer zone be extended.

Manion made the motion to approve the developer’s request that is contingent on providing a vegetation landscape barrier such as evergreens or the like that goes past the originally proposed area, and extends all the way to the edge of the commercially zoned acreage closer to the road.

Brian Thouvenot (Jean Thouvenot’s son) voiced concern with the project, as he and his family have in the past during other meetings concerning the project in March after the zoning was voted to be changed from country estates to multifamily, which was a controversial topic.

So now that (village engineer) Norm (Etling’s) gone, who is going to be reveiwing the master plan down the line?

Brian Thouvenot said.

Kern said village and Thouvenot, Wade and Moerchen Inc. staff will be reviewing it before it comes back to the Planning Commission, and then on to the Board of Trustees.

“There won’t be a public hearing, like tonight though, on the master plan when it’s finalized because tonight’s was required due to ordinance variance requests on behalf of the developer,” Kern said.

“We just want to be sure the master plan later can’t just be pushed through without any public knowledge or input — in other words we don’t want to find out after the fact that something was just approved without going through the proper channels first,” Brian Thouvenot said.

Hurford presented a power point presentation with a 3D visual video.

In response to Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier, as an audience member, not a board member, offered a question to the board, “I don’t believe he needs to be sworn, as long as he introduces himself?”

According to Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS), a.k.a. ‘Open Meeting Act,’ anyone addressing a public board must be sworn in as a matter of public record, which the board almost didn’t require Hurford to do so, until Brian spoke up.

Kwiatkowski responded quickly with asking Hurford to raise his right hand, swear to tell the truth, and then thanked him.

I think he actually should be sworn in. I think if you’re going to ask a member of the public (professional or not), then let’s do it on the up and up.

Brian Thouvenot said.

“The project is very unique in my opinion. I don’t think there’s a project like this anywhere that I know of, maybe not even in the U.S.,” Hurford said.

He pointed out three interesting components of the project: the concept of living, the subplanning and amenitites, and the architecture itself.

The development is broken up into two distinct communitites, apartments and homes, within one larger one, Hurford said.

“We are going to have garden buildings with apartments and townhouses which are geared more towards the young professionals or the younger families, and then we will have ranch-style homes for a target demographic of ‘empty nesters,’ couples looking to settle down and start families,” he said.

Hurford said the two communities will be connected by walking trails that “lead from your home to one of the two large lakes to the clubhouses, and maybe in the future even to some shops in the commercial lots in front of the development.” According to Hurford, one attraction to the development is the 38 low profile, single story 38 ranch buildings, which are planned to create a sort of border with varying sized yards to create a more asthetically pleasing appearance from the outside looking into the development.

“We’ve placed the perimeter mostly along the edge of residential properties or neighbors to be the lower profile units because we didn’t want large three story apartments on that part of the property,” Hurford said. “So intentionally, we placed the larger cluster of buildings at angles to create interesting spaces and courtyard and outdoor living areas, which are also closer to the commercial side of the project and towards the center of the development.”

All residents will have cohesive and similar exterior materials, he said.

Brick, a premium thicker grade vinyl and architectural shingles are the proposed materials, he said.

Bruce Behrens, resident living at 1038 Hartman Lane, just behind the recently built Circle K convenience and gas mart, told the board and the development consultants how he thinks the traffic study should be done.

“You come to my house anyday between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and count the number of cars backed up from the light (in front of Circle K) all the way down past my property to the first subdivision (Stone Bridge Villas & Estates at Hartman Lane and Three Rivers Drive), that’s how you do a traffic study, and then you take it from there. You don’t just do a time stamp from sitting behind a desk. I invite you to come see for yourself, sit in my driveway and you’ll see how bad the traffic is, and now you’re going to add more,” Behrens said.

Lee Cannon, traffic engineer of CBB in Creve Coeur, Mo., said he and other engineers did do traffic vehicle counts from the fields near the development, and with the upcoming St. Clair County road improvements this summer to Frank Scott Parkway and the addition of a signal light and extra turn lanes, the growing traffic issue Behrens speaks of will be mitigated.

There will be an entrance on Hartman Lane or Thouvenot Lane, which one is still uncertain, according to Olson.

“Where is this entrance going to be on Hartman. It’s the same problem as last time (at previous meetings) — traffic. I wanna know how traffic coming in and out of there is going to affect me coming and going from my property, especially when I already experience problems and delays,” Behrens said.

Behrens posed another salient question, which sparked an argument between Vernier and Brian Thouvenot shortly thereafter.

How many of those people living there are going to have kids in the schools, and who is going to absorb the taxes to build another school? Who absorbs that cost? The taxpayer or you?

Bruce Behrens said.

Behrens said it’s not just the taxpayers living there, but also everyone else who will end up footing the bill to accomodate an influx of students in O’Fallon schools, which Central District 104 is already overcrowded.

Mayor Vernier asked Kern from his seat in the audience, “this has been public knowledge for months now, have we received any letters from the schools?”

“Just so you know, there is a plan going on behind the scenes for Central Elementary to build a new school, and right now they will be using a temporary trailer, so you may want to reach out to them,” Brian Thouvenot said.

Vernier defended the project despite attendees inquiring about the affect the development will have on schools.

“It’s just a matter of taking into consideration everything before we do it, and it’s clear that never was Central School involved in this because it’s Shiloh versus O’Fallon,” Brian Thouvenot said. “Isn’t that the mayor’s job to reach out to the schools and all affected parties before moving forward with a big project?”

Vernier said that’s not his job. “I don’t run the schools, the schools run the schools,” he said.

Vernier said the projected influx of students wouldn’t be more than about 300. most likely. “You say that so nonchalantly like it’s no big deal, Central is at capacity. To dismiss the public in this, and this is what I don’t like about this whole situation is this planning commission voted this thing down zero to five, and your (Vernier’s) comments at the (following) trustee meeting was ‘the planning commission meeting was a misinformed one,’” Brian said. “Why do you get so defensive?”

Brian Thouvenot said after the meeting that aside from the mayor’s controlling ego, another concern is long-term, stable growth.

“We have more people unable to finance homes, so they are leasing homes or apartments now, so there’s no guarantee that this will stay an ‘upscale development’ if they plan on leasing,” he said.

A full time maintenance staff will be provided for the privately owned property. According to a memo dated May 24 to the ‘Plan Commission’ states “there are no individual lots; all privately owned by one entity.”

“I think that’s important here too because we are designing a lot of amenities and if we don’t take care of it right, we are going to have people who don’t want to move in, or people living there wanting to move out,” Hurford said.

The six garden buildings containing 176 apartments, is on the southermost part of the development, where as the ranch buildings, 152 units when complete, sit on the northernmost part of the development and are adjacent to the Thouvenot family driveway — the closest is 40 feet proximity from property line to development structures, according to Eric Olson, civil engineer with Millennia Professional Services of Illinois Ltd.

“Another unique thing about this project is the developers wanted low density. They could’ve built 447 units on this property, which is 119 more units, but they didn’t want to do that. We want green space, blue space, walking trails and amenities — and we want all of that because we want to all be proud of it, but we also want people to live here too, so it’s gotta be very special,” Hurford said.

Brian Thouvenot said he is concerned with the buffer zone between his mother’s property and the development being extended all the way to the commercially zoned lots, which the board was supported.

The Shiloh Village Board on March 14 passed the controversial rezoning application for the Hartman Lakes project with a 4-1 vote The rezoning allowed the project to move forward with plans to build 328 housing units on 55 acres.

I’m happy with this part for now, but I’m going to keep coming to these meetings, because if I hadn’t asked the question or pointed out errors or lack of information then who would. These things would just end up getting approved with no input and no accountability from the village.

Jean Thouvenot said.

The rezoning application for Hartman Lakes was submitted on Feb. 10 by Green Mount Retail Center LLC, the developer whose office is located at 1331 Park Plaza Drive, suite 4 in O’Fallon, which went before the Shiloh Planning Commission on March 14, where the commission passed a recommendation of denial be forwarded to the Board of Trustees.

Residents came in droves to voice opposition to the project because it will undoubtedly add to the existing traffic congestion on Hartman and Thouvenot Lanes, as well as Frank Scott Parkway. Over 20 residents addressed the Planning Commission and 10 addressed the board of trustees on March 28.