The Plan Commission had rejected the proposal based mainly on the size. They said it was much too big for that location, where City Code limits the maximum building height to 50 ft, and the variance requested by Shodeen was 81 ft. The Plan Commission made the recommendation that if the building were stepped down in height to River St., they would have a good starting point for discussion. During their deliberation, they had also mentioned they liked the good use of color along Washington St. to break up large sections visually. But that would be part of the design review later, which would be discussed further only if Shodeen would make the building smaller or the City Council would overrule their recommendation.
So, given these recommendations to Shodeen by the Plan Commission, Shodeen came back to the Council with a minor change in roof design and some addition of red siding to the State Street side. They did nothing to address the height, which was the major factor for rejection by the Plan Commission. They added what they called a “plaza,” which was really just bumping in the glass at the corner of the ground floor store front at State and River to make a bigger sidewalk area on the corner, and they thought that would somehow make the building look smaller. The majority of the City Council liked the changes and overruled the Plan Commission’s recommendation to not grant the variances, voting to send on to full Council blanket approval for all the zoning variances requested.
Alderman Kevin Botterman was the sole vote against the project. However, Ald. Marty Callahan asked that they be given financial numbers, to revisit at the next Council meeting, for the original 171 units and 304 parking spaces, as originally proposed, that would take a floor off the building and thus reduce its height to a more reasonable level. He had been listening to the people whom he had talked to, and said even many of those in support of the project thought it was too big. It appeared his vote to send it to the full Council was with the understanding the numbers would be there to discuss, and not that he was agreeing to the project just yet.
Even if Alderman Callahan gets his numbers and listens to his constituents and seeks compromise and maybe even votes against the project as it is, joining Ald. Botterman, 2 against 12 will still lose. The majority were not willing to put it to referendum to ask the people what they want. They were confident the people had voted them in because they trusted them to make good decisions, and as evidence, Ald. Susan Stark cited all the unopposed aldermanic races. She says that shows we’re happy with the Council.
Mayor Schielke cautioned the Council to be careful in their decision, as the group of mayors that he belongs to has been discussing the budget battle in Springfield, where there has been talk of legislation that could affect TIFs, SSAs, and a property tax freeze, all of which could make funding this project near impossible for the next 10 yrs.
Alderman Callahan took Mayor Schielke’s caution seriously. Many of the others scoffed and said basically they can’t put life on hold for Springfield.