The preliminary plans for the Morris marina were approved by the Morris City Council Monday before a packed council chambers.
A public hearing was held at the meeting regarding an annexation agreement for part of the marina property, as well as action taken on multiple items for the project. About 30 people were in the audience, but few spoke publicly.
Edgewater Resources is planning to create RiverPlace Marina along Cemetery Road and the Illinois River. Since 2006, when they first approached the city, they have downsized the project and are focusing more on "cash flow" projects, such as the hotel, restaurant and destination portions of the marina, said Ronald Schults of Edgewater Resources.
The new plan is for seven condominium buildings that are 4-1/2 stories high, totaling 126 condos; five two-story townhomes, totaling 28 townhome units; 52 cottages; 59 floating boat houses; a community clubhouse; a 70-room hotel; 208 marina slips; marina business buildings, including retail, boat sales and boat storage; and 1,023 parking spaces. It also adds a private water-skiing lake with about 25 of its own residences.
Since its original proposal, RiverPlace has added an additional parcel that includes a partnership with ADM for barge fleeting, as well as 220 acres to the east known as the Viking property. The east property will be where the water-skiing lake will be. On the ADM portion, there will eventually be buildings and a dock in the basin of the location.
The entire project is almost 400 acres.
Schults gave another public presentation on the plans. The city approved annexing the about 200 acres of the area that is not already in the city. These acres include a parcel to add to ADM's portion for fleeting, which was also approved for manufacturing zoning. The second parcel is for the water-ski lake and 25 surrounding lots, which also needed a zoning change to residential-1. All new property into the city is zoned residential automatically.
Alderman Drew Muffler questioned whether it was common for a marina to be located next to a barge fleeting company such as ADM.
"It's part of the attraction over there. I don't see a negative at all; in fact, it's a positive," said Schults.
He said it is set up this way in Ottawa, and that the people who purchase homes in the marina facility are river people who are attracted to it because of the river traffic. The marina's commercial buildings will also back up to ADM as a buffer.
Alderman Randy Larson asked if, with ADM having an additional facility in Morris for loading and unloading, there will be an increase of barge traffic. Schults said there is fleeting there currently, but the goal is to create an opportunity for future business by offering a dock in the future.
Larson asked how this would affect people spending time at Morris' state parks on the river, and people doing activities on the river.
"The change to the traffic on the river is nominal or negligible because its already there," said Schults. If anything, he said it would become safer because the property's basin allows for the barges to park within it instead of just along the river.
The council also discussed the impact on the schools. Mayor Richard Kopczick said the school districts supported this project in 2006, when it had more residential units because the project will not be attracting children. Schults said their similar projects have had a maximum of three children living there permanently at a time.
Grundy Economic Development Council CEO Nancy Ammer spoke in favor of the project during the public hearing.
"In the last six months, we've seen a lot of small and large manufacturing prospects in the office . . . almost 65 percent of the prospects are manufacturing related and many ask if there is a docking facility on the river," she said.
Having the ADM facility, Ammer said, would attract more industry and increase jobs in the county.
MAJOR OR MINOR?
The council did make an amendment to the annexation agreement for the additional ADM parcel and water-ski lake area at the initiation of Larson.
The agreement read that the mayor would have the authority to decided if any changes to the plans are "major" or "minor." This decision would determine whether the change would have to come before the city in a public meeting, or a public meeting with the addition of a public hearing.
Larson wanted more than just the mayor making this decision, he said, and wanted the professionals in development to do so. The council decided to change it so the city engineer, city planner and building and zoning officer would make this call.
No matter what, the final plans come before the council.
This changed was approved 6-2, with aldermen Ken Sereno and Don Hansen voting no.
"I do not want to spend the money to legally change the document . . . the mayor has the city attorney to get legal advice from and would talk to (the city engineer, planner and building and zoning officer) anyway," said Hansen.