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Irongate vote could prompt talks on city’s long-term vision

Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council members could be doing some soul-searching on the city’s future as early as September, Mayor John Rey said Tuesday.

Rey’s comments came the day after the council members split their votes on an annexation agreement that would have added more than 1,200 houses to the city. The city’s current comprehensive plan calls for a development like Irongate to be added to the area around DeKalb High School.

However, both Rey, who supported the proposal, and David Patzelt, the president of Irongate developer ShoDeen Construction, felt the council needs to re-work its vision for the city.

“I don’t sense the city or the City Council being anti-development, but we’ll have to do our homework and get the City Council to ... revisit its strategic goals,” Rey said.

Approving annexation agreements in DeKalb requires six “yes” votes. Monday night’s was the first time the new City Council – which included Rey, and Aldermen Bill Finucane and Bob Snow of the 2nd and 4th Wards, respectively – discussed the Irongate project. As a result, members of the DeKalb city staff gave an hourlong presentation covering many different aspects of the Irongate plan.

But with the City Council voting 4-4 on the agreement, the project was axed and the city staff was directed to not work on it anymore.

If they wanted, ShoDeen leaders could move ahead with building Irongate without an annexation agreement. But Patzelt said he will not pursue it – or any other project – without direction from the council.

Rey said he was worried about the City Council sending mixed ­messages to developers. He viewed the Irongate vote as a rejection of adding new lots to DeKalb, and instead building on the 300 vacant lots that already exist in the city.

“It appears the council feels that quantity of housing is adequate at this time,” Rey said.

Critics of the Irongate plan – which include aldermen and members of the public – have said they do not believe the demand for new housing exists in the city. Paul Sauser, the owner of Star Apartments, said at Monday’s meeting that only two permits for starting single family homes had been issued in the past two years.

Patzelt said he doubted those 300 lots would ever be sold, and questioned whether there are issues at those spots that prevent them from being developed.

“If you have 300 loaves of bread on the shelf and they all have mold, you’re not going to sell them,” Patzelt said. “But are you going to say you’re not going to make more bread because you can’t sell them?”

Patzelt estimated his company has spent about $1 million working on the Irongate development, not including land costs. He did not have an estimate for how many hours were spent on the 458-acre project.

Interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu also did not have an estimate of how much time city staff spent on the project, but he disagreed with Patzelt’s estimation that the effort spent on Irongate was a waste.

“I don’t feel like any of that time was a waste,” Espiritu said. “We had to put that time in to help educate the council. ... This was the first time the City Council heard it. It took some time to put it together for them, to consider this. I don’t consider to be a waste at all.” 

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