ROCHELLE — At Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the City of Rochelle Planning & Zoning Commission, a public hearing was held on a petition by Seldal Properties, LLC to rezone property located at 450 Willis Ave. to allow for a future apartment complex. The commission unanimously recommended the Rochelle City Council approve the rezone at its next meeting.
Seldal Properties Owner Bruce Seldal has requested to rezone the property from B2 (commercial highway) to R5 (multi-family, high-density residential). The vacant land sits at the corner of Willis Avenue and Lake Lida Lane and is 1.59 acres. The property is surrounded by B-2 commercial highway zoning to the west, north and south and R5 multi-family, high-density residential immediately to the east, northeast and southeast.
Seldal owns a number of rental properties in Rochelle and said there’s a limited number of available lots to build on.
“This property has been vacant for at least 15 years and nothing commercial has been built on it,” Seldal said. “I built some townhomes on Seventh Avenue a few years back. The thought is to do something similar with this parcel. This one is weird-shaped, so there will probably be a limitation to how many apartment/townhome-type buildings I'll be able to put there. These would be on the higher end of rentals.”
Seldal said his apartments on Seventh Avenue rent for $900 a month and the proposed development on Willis Avenue would be similarly-priced and provide another alternative for people looking to rent that would like to have some of the amenities of a single-family home such as quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, central air and washer/dryer hookups.
The apartments on Seventh Avenue are filled up and calls asking if there’s a unit available are fielded by Seldal Properties often, Seldal said. He believes a development on Willis Avenue would fill a need in town.
“I drove by the property you're talking about and I commend you,” Planning & Zoning Commissioner Dennis Swinton said. “I think that's an ideal situation. We need more housing and that's a good location.”
The commission voted unanimously to continue two Hickory Grove-related agenda items to its next meeting.
The first agenda item was a petition by the city to subdivide the property located at 1123 N. 7th St. to re-subdivide two lots and parts of others. One lot would be transferred to Rochelle Hospitality, LLC, the owner of the Comfort Inn & Suites next door to the Hickory Grove site.
The second item was Rochelle Hospitality, LLC petitioning to subdivide property located at 1133 N. 7th St. The purpose is to re-subdivide a portion of two lots into one. The newly-subdivided lot would be an exchange of land as per an approved development agreement with the city. The
land exchange would allow the hotel to build an exterior pool, in conformance with city codes, which is required by the franchise.
City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh has said in the past that the subdivision and platting and coming to an agreement on a land swap must be done so the hotel can put in a pool and several parking spaces in the Hickory Grove lot that are owned by the hotel would be given to the city.
The Hickory Grove building was demolished earlier this year by the city as it works to get the site sold and developed this year.
The commission held a public hearing regarding a text amendment to its B1 district special use requirements and unanimously recommended the city council approve the change at its next meeting.
City Community Development Director Michelle Pease said the thinking behind the potential change is that as the downtown area develops moving forward, the planning & zoning commission will have the opportunity to review each potential new special use/construction project on a case-by-case basis.
“It's just good for you all to have a set of eyes on all of that and that we're consistent with our comprehensive plan,” Pease said. “You all put together that comprehensive plan, so you should have an eye on the projects that are specifically in that downtown. We last updated that plan in 2016 and we're going to do it again as a group early next year.”
The council held a public hearing on and unanimously recommended the approval of a proposed variance of setbacks and landscaping for the property located at 323 W. 2nd. Ave.
The petitioner, Robert Kuehl, is seeking the variance to construct a body/mechanic shop. His business has been in the community for 10 years and the size of the building he is requesting the variance for is the smallest possible footprint to fit a paint booth and everything necessary to operate.
"I've been in the collision industry for almost 20 years, so it's about all I know,” Kuehl said. “I tried to make it as small as I could to make it work for me. But I do a lot of big truck work. I will need some room to fit those.”
Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Kurt Wolter called the request “quite a variance,” but said he believes it’s a good development for the lot.