Industrial development could mean destruction of Kane County landmark

A project that would bring $ 32 million in industrial development to Elgin will also bulldoze a house designated as a Kane County Historic Landmark if approved by Elgin City Council.

The project would be located in what was an unincorporated area between Elgin and Sleepy Hollow, just north of I-90 and immediately west of the Elgin Oaks Industrial Park. It also houses six single-family homes.

One of these houses, at 35W655 Toll Gate Road, was built in 1967 by local architect John Schmidtke, who lived in the house until his death. Kane County designated the house as a historic landmark in 1996 due to the importance of the house’s international style construction.

The development of the two proposed industrial buildings totaling over 435,000 square feet combined would require the demolition of the historic house. At Monday night’s public hearing before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, no one spoke out in favor of saving the property.

A neighbor testified that Schmidtke’s former residence had been in poor condition for several years. A representative from the Atlanta-based development team said state historic preservation officials contacted about the house had not indicated any obstacles to shaving the house. The city council voted in April to annex the property to the city. The city is not legally bound to maintain the county’s historic designation.

Commissioners suggested photographing the property and donating the images to the Gail Borden Library to at least preserve the memory of the house. The developers have said they are willing to help any interested entity preserve the house by moving it to another location.

Residential neighbors directly north of the project site have expressed a number of concerns regarding water drainage, aesthetics and noise.

“Right now we are surrounded only by nature and woods,” said neighbor Nate Klein. “If I wanted to live right next to the industry, this is what I would have been looking for.”

The development team said they configured the site plan to keep future truck traffic as far away from neighbors as possible. The commission also recommended additional protection of the landscape to deal with any possible diesel noise and smell.

All of these concerns are speculative. The project, if approved by city council, would begin construction in April without a specific tenant lining up to use the space.

The commission recommended going ahead with the plan by a 5-0 vote. The city council must also give its approval before any construction can begin.

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