A decade ago — the last time the village’s comprehensive plan was updated — the economy was booming, and it seemed developers couldn’t build enough high-end housing to satisfy consumers.
But times have changed, according to trustee Bill Lamb, who served as chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee. The large developments that flooded the village in the early 2000s are a thing of the past.
“The opportunities to build those kind of houses are now diminished … the demographics have changed,” Lamb said.
These days, he said, home buyers are looking for a more diverse mix of housing products, from young professionals looking to upgrade to empty nesters looking to downsize.
On Monday, village trustees heard from committee members, who have been working since last fall to craft a blueprint for Plainfield’s future growth, including a proposal that would bring a mix of affordable multi-family housing to the village.
“Perhaps the most remarkable change will be the projected decrease in the rate of growth and the projected population of 62,000 people by 2030,” Planner Michael Garrigan said in a memo to the village board, adding the comprehensive plan focuses on how the village will accommodate those additional 22,000 residents.
According to Garrigan, the best way to accommodate that growth would be to promote development in areas with existing utilities.
A shortage of affordable lots in north Plainfield could mean developers will look to expand into the southwest part of town, where utilities are already in place to serve the existing Creekside Crossing and Springbank developments, he noted.
The downturn of the housing market has meant both of the partially built-out developments have met with limited success, Garrigan said, leaving room for growth.
On Monday, trustees heard the proposed vision for what committee members called the Southwestern Plan, which encompasses the section of south Plainfield bordering the City of Joliet.
The area lies west of Drauden Road and south of Renwick Road.
Garrigan said a dramatic demographic change will likely create a demand for higher-density housing.
“Approximately 75 percent of future households will be non-traditional,” shifting away from what he called the “Ozzie and Harriet-type” household, Garrigan said.
“Plainfield will still be predominantly single family but there will be a market for other types of product,” he noted. “This plan is to try to respond to future demographics over the next 10, 20 years.”
Trustees got a preview of what that could look like as a developer laid out tentative plans for the Vista Pointe subdivision, which calls for a mix of single family and multi-family housing including apartments, townhomes, duplexes and large manor homes.
The development, which is at the corner of Ridge and Wheeler roads, would include multi-family housing along Ridge and County line roads among its proposed 1,203 units, breaking down as follows: 216 apartments, 104 townhomes, 87 manor home units and 20 duplexes.
The proposal also calls for four neighborhood parks, along with a school — a point that caused concern for at least one board member.
Trustee Margie Bonuchi, who is employed by the Plainfield School District, asked who would pay for the new school.
“It’s a nice idea,” she said. “In District 202, building a new school financially is not feasible.”
‘We can do better’
Bonuchi also had concerns with the proposed higher density.
“I do not want to market the south of Plainfield as the lesser end of town,” she said. “My big concern about this overall plan is the people density,” Bonuchi said, adding she was not sold on the concept of mixing apartments, manor homes and townhomes.
“It has to be looked at very carefully,” she said.
Trustee Dan Rippy agreed, saying he was concerned about the additional pressure the high density would put on local schools and fire protection district.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s the wisest choice to bend to the market immediately until we know what it’s going to be in 20 years,” he said.
“This reminds me of Lakewood Falls and that’s not what I envision for the future of the community,” Rippy added, referring to the large, multi-phase subdivision in unincorporated Plainfield. “I think we can do better.”
Developer Tom Small urged trustees not to dismiss the proposal.
“It’s always, ‘We don’t want this kind of people,’” he said. “These people are teachers, firefighters, police officers,” Small added, noting the proposed price points for the homes are in the $200,000s.
“Four to five years ago, these kind of people could afford $300,000, $400,000 [homes],” he said. “The reality is the marketplace has changed.”
Lamb noted that higher density doesn’t have to mean lower quality.
“We really want it to be something special,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a cheap or inexpensive or lower-class part of town.”
Mayor Mike Collins stressed that the proposal is only a draft.
“It’s just a blueprint,” he said. “ … Because the economy is so slow right now, we have to have a vision for what we want.”
Trustees Paul Fay and Garrett Peck were absent from Monday night's Committee of the Whole meeting.