Some oppose Momence housing project

December 31, 2018

MOMENCE — Some neighbors of a proposed senior housing development in Momence are concerned about its possible impact on nearby properties.

The city sent information about the plan to the eight residents closest to the proposed project. The development would be in northeast Momence, just east of the residential neighborhood and Berkot’s grocery store.

A zoning board hearing is set for Jan. 3. The panel will consider the developer’s proposal to change the area in question from single-family residential to multi-family and make a recommendation to the City Council.

The development, proposed by Momence businessman Jeff Van Drunen, will consist of 23 duplexes and a community building, according to city records.

Residents got 13 days’ notice of the hearing, during the height of the holiday season.

“I’m furious about this,” said resident Yvonne Nirchi, one of the recipients of the city letter. “I think the whole neighborhood should be notified. It’s a sneak attack.”

She said she was concerned about the increased traffic in her neighborhood and wondered about the effects of changing the zoning to multi-family.

In an interview, Mayor Chuck Steele said the city has given enough time for residents to review the information. And he said the city went above and beyond notification requirements. It only was required to inform the two homeowners with next-door properties to the proposed development. Instead, the city notified all eight owners on the east side of Louise Drive.

Steele said he has heard both positive and negative feedback about the proposed development.

“It’s gotten a few people upset. They’re talking about property values dropping,” he said.

Steele said “nothing is being snuck through.” He said the developer has until Jan. 15 to submit information to the federal government.

After the zoning board makes a recommendation, the City Council is expected to vote on the project at its next meeting on Jan. 7. Steele said the council does not have another meeting before Jan. 15, so any delay would mean missing the company’s deadline.

As for concerns with the development, Steele noted Republic Services, a garbage company, is almost as close to the neighborhood in question as the new development.

The proposed development bolsters the city argument that new housing is coming to Momence. A few months ago, the Kankakee County zoning board recommended approval of a solar farm just outside of the city’s northeastern limits, not far from the proposed development.

The mayor and council opposed the solar farm, saying the city needed room to expand. However, county staff threw doubt on that idea, saying no housing development had occurred in that area in a half century, even though it had been zoned residential.

During an August county public hearing, Steele said he took great offense at such a suggestion. He said while the town hadn’t seen much in the way of new housing, it had experienced dramatic growth in job-creating industry. The housing in the neighborhood near Berkot’s went up in the last 20 years.

Nonetheless, the county board approved the solar farm.

“The county was way off base,” Steele said this week.

Van Drunen owns the proposed senior housing project through his limited partnership, JAVD Illinois. He is president of FutureCeuticals, an ingredient supply firm and a sister company to Van Drunen Farms.

Both FutureCeuticals and Van Drunen Farms are based in Momence. Combined, the two companies employ about 700, according to the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County’s 2018 jobs report.

Van Drunen lists the address of Van Drunen Farms in his project application with the city. The limited partnership’s address is a house in Dyer, Ind., a Chicago suburb, according to state records.

The developer is Springfield, Mo.-based Four Corners Development, which specializes in affordable housing.

Van Drunen and representatives of Four Corners Development couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

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