The people of Libertyville have spoken!

Hello all! If you’re reading this, you must have some tie to me and/or Libertyville, and I wanted to fill you in on the progress of the proposed development at 901 Butterfield Rd. Libertyville, IL 60048. As a resident of Libertyville, I chose to be involved in this as much as I could. Below is a recap of what’s being proposed, some visuals, and my views on the entire thing.

Just some facts about the proposed development. The property is located south of Winchester Rd. and Lake Ave. and it’s west of Butterfield Rd. Butterfield elementary school is directly across the street (Butterfield rd.) from the property. The proposed development is going to be 148 homes on 15.2 acres of land, however, including the streets, parks, retention pond, etc. the property being purchased for this development is a total of 40 acres. This puts each home on 2000-2200 square foot lots. There’s 2 dog-legs (if you will) in the center of the development that will be an alley-type set up. The total cost will be near $100M (ish) to purchase/build. The homes were originally projected to sell for $400k-$600k, but now they’re anticipating selling the homes for $600-$800k. See the pics below for the floor plans and birds-eye-view.

floor-planbirdseye-view

The public hearing on 1/9/17 had an outpouring of people. At least 200 people there, but it may have been closer to 300 people. We heard from about 30-40 people expressing their point of view. Not one person who spoke was in favor of the development. The developers had chances to speak and answer questions, but they were not well received.

Here is a link to the agenda: http://www.libertyville.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/1504

The minutes haven’t been posted yet

Peoples’ main concerns seemed to fall under, but are not limited to, the following reasons:

  • Increased traffic congestion and back up at major nearby intersections which already experience a significant level of traffic; furthermore, increased commute times and more cut through traffic in nearby neighborhoods.
  • Increased school population
  • Safety for children—proximity to the road and the inevitability of crossing the road if they choose to leave the subdivision
  • The high density of homes not matching Libertyville’s character/structure and lot size requirement
  • Pollution of Butler Lake – the retention ponds feed into St. Mary Lake, which feeds into Bull Creek, which feeds into Butler Lake
  • De-annexation of the property

There were definitely more than these reasons stated. Some disliked the plans to have 6 foot tall white vinyl fences around every single yard, some people mentioned that the development may not age well, and that should the expensive homes be too burdensome with the combination of property taxes and an HOA fee, it could turn into a rental community and not be as well taken care of; another concern was that there would be costs associated with handling the increased population in schools and the increased pollution into Butler Lake, therefore causing reason for an increase in property taxes; others felt that surrounding home values in the area could drop due to proximity to the unwanted development.

The developers had these statistics and solutions to share:

  • In regards to Traffic
    • Install (and pay for) a traffic light to be installed at Lake Ave and Butterfield.
      • This would “help traffic flow” in and out of the golf course and Lake St.
      • They looked into having a traffic light installed at the entrance of the subdivision, but didn’t qualify for the signal warrant
      • They also checked into having the entrance of the subdivision be through the golf course – to no avail, the golf course, although owned by the same owner as the 40 acre lot in question, is leased. The owner nor the lessor would agree to pursuing that option
    • They also will be required to limit left turns out of the subdivision entrance during rush hours
    • They will not allow left turns into Ridgewood Ln. either in an attempt to avoid cut through traffic
  • In regards to school population
    • They claimed through Kane McKenna studies, that school population would increase 106 students k-12th
    • 68 from k-5th
    • 38 from Jr High
  • In regards to the safety, they proposed building a path (not on the drawing) for kids to walk from the north most park to the entrance of the golf course
    • This would be the same location the traffic light would be installed allowing kids to walk across Butterfield to school
  • In regards to character and structure
    • They insisted that the town needs diversity and different types of housing
  • In regards to pollution
    • They claimed that the retention ponds were sufficient and that the sewage lines were tested and could withstand the increased volume.
    • They also mentioned, through answering questions, that the HOA for the development would be responsible for checking and testing the ongoing water conditions of the run off.
  • As far as money in concerned, they predicted, again through Kane McKenna studies, the following revenue over the next 20 years
    • $3.9M to Butterfield School District and Highland Jr. High
    • $6.7M to Libertyville Township High School
    • $4.4M to the Village of Libertyville

This public hearing was in front of the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and their staff. They are a recommending bodies, not approving bodies; they make recommendations to the Board of Trustees, and the Board of Trustees approves or denies.

Here are my thoughts on the whole thing.

Let me start by stating I’m not for this plan in its current form. However, there is a larger concern than any of the above issues mentioned, which is a possible annexation of the land. It was confirmed at the hearing that the property could be annexed by Mundelein since they are the neighboring town and this property is on the border. The archdiocese owns the property, along with Pine Meadow Golf Course (the neighboring land north); Pine Meadow Golf Course is technically part of Mundelein currently – you can look at some of the images below. A member of the Planning Commission mentioned that Libertyville always considers annexation for property along the borders. It was also made very clear that the developers would pursue that option should Libertyville deny their proposition. This is exactly what happened with Greg’s Landing and the Cuneo property; not only are there large property tax revenues going to Vernon Hills (not Libertyville) from the Greg’s Landing development, but now the land sports a Marianos, Lowes, Staples, Starbucks, Jersey Mike’s, and others.

Libertyville is in between a rock and a hard place

Libertyville is, therefore, in between a rock and a hard place. Either they work with this developer, or risk it falling into someone else’s hands and end up with something that could be worse. It was also confirmed by Dr. Schumacher, District 70’s Superintendent that it is possible for Mundelein to annex, build a development, and residents’ children still attend Libertyville schools (at least Butterfield). It would seem that flat-out denial of this development may lead to the same issues to which everyone is opposed.

I don’t want to discount the voice of the people, because it DOES matter, however, I feel as if the Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Trustees aren’t as swayed by the emotional and personal reasons i.e. “Not in my back yard” and “I don’t like it” type of reasons. Furthermore, I don’t know if the environmental reasons of Butler Lake, cutting down trees (they’re already gone) and preserving the land are important either; it wouldn’t be the first time a decision has been made for financial interests at the expense of the environment and despite the voice of the people. Also, sometimes these type of reasons for not wanting a development can be remedied—you don’t like the white vinyl fences? Okay, no fences… now what?

Instead, I feel that the most persuasive arguments are going to be the ones that prove impracticality and lack of reasoning to grant a variance. The biggest impracticality would be the following traffic pattern. Below is a map showing the route that parents would need to take during rush hours to get their kids to school. 3.2 Miles and 8 minutes without any traffic… However, with the traffic on 176 going east, especially with the High School on that route as well, this trip will definitely take at least 15 minutes – all of this, to get to a school that’s across the street. This inconvenient traffic pattern creates incentive to disobey the traffic rules and encourages walking/riding to school, hence increasing safety risk.

directions

There are also two items that go against existing rules and zoning, and the board would have to approve the changes and provide a variance in order for this development to work.

One is changing the maps. There are 7 acres that are designated commercial on the planning map and the zoning map alike. Both maps would need to be changed to R6 (a form of residential) in order for the development to be completed.

The second is the lot size, which has to do with the zoning designation of R6. R1-R6 are residential zoning designations. R1 is the largest restriction requiring 2 acres per house on the land. R6 is the least restrictive requiring 7500 sqft per house on the land. The proposed developments largest lot in the current plan is 2200 sqft, and they are asking Libertyville to provide a variance (an exception) to this rule. In my opinion, this is simply too far of a stretch or bending of this rule. For clarification, 7500 sqft is about .17 acres.

As a recap, I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m a bit torn, because I believe having Libertyville stay in control of this land is important – whether it’s to be developed or not. However, I don’t agree with stretching the rule of lot size per home so far to 2000 sqft and setting a precedent as such; in addition, the traffic patterns simply don’t make sense with the current plan; this will pose an issue no matter who is in control of the approval process because the traffic pattern requirements and warrants for traffic signals are coming from the Lake County Department of Transportation. But I am still wary of what may happen in the near future should Libertyville flat-out deny the development.

Stay tuned for more! The Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals decided on a continuance and the next hearing is scheduled for February 27th, 2017.

Below are some more pictures providing further explanation.

Thank you for reading! Comments and Questions Welcomed.

 

developmentbordersownership

 

8 thoughts on “The people of Libertyville have spoken!

  1. Thank you for explaining the situation. I attended the meeting but I really had no idea what the real difference was between R1 and R6. Obviously no one agrees with the development. I was wondering what is Libertyville’s working relationship with Mundelein? What are Mundelein’s rules for their developments? Do they have other dense population like this? Do we know for sure that Mundelein wouldn’t care about Libertyville and create such an adversary relationship with us if they sell us out by annexing and approving it? How about our relationship with the Archdiocese? Can we work with them to create some form of open space or park area? The open space bonds from years ago bought a lot of land away from us but we participated in the cost.

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      1. Hi Joe! Thanks for your journal on the story so far. It may be exhaustive, but it is correct, in all but one aspect. I do not believe that Libertyville is between a rock and a hard place, though one might think so at first. If one does, we give up too easily. In truth, it is the Church which is in the middle of this squeeze. They need the cash, estimated at $10,000,000, have leveled the trees, and now discover they can’t design a sellable piece of residential property for lack of road access. I think many Libertyville folks would accept a low density development, but even then, none of the traffic, and critical safety issues go away. The real solution is to find an alternative use for the property that doesn’t infringe upon the inalienable rights of the residents who already live here.
        Thanks for putting this into circulation; now might be the time to think not so much about raising the bridge, but how we can lower the river!

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    1. Thankso for all your hard work on this Phil! I know you’ve been deeply involved and following this for its entirety. Appreciate the pov!

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  2. I agree with whoever posted above me – why not a lower-density development? I think that we already have enough diversity in terms of the many different styles of homes and neighborhoods in Libertyville and do not see the need for something so crowded and overpopulated. If I was going to spend 600-800k on a new home, I’d definitely want some more yard space, privacy, and a much better location logistically.

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    1. Hey Paige, Thank you for your comment. The next hearing will be on Feb 27th. I hope that there are some better ideas regarding what can be done and what the people are willing to allow.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Joe.

    I would just like to add some comments regarding the threat of disconnection, in response to your comment…

    “This is exactly what happened with Greg’s Landing and the Cuneo property”.

    I’ve heard/read similar comments from others, both regarding the Cuneo property and Hawthorne Mall property, but it’s not really the same thing.

    These properties were never part of Libertyville, they were unincorporated land. The owners sought to join a Village to increase the value of their land. There were no disconnection proceedings, nothing was de-annexed. The property owners had little more to do than select a Village to join, and of course they would select the Village that promised them the moon (friendliest to development). The Village of Libertyville is not beyond criticism, especially with the benefit of hindsight. They could have moved faster in the case of the Hawthorne property (they wanted to let residents vote and the owner was not interested in waiting), and they could have been more open to development in the case of the Cuneo property, but they were very interested and active in trying to annex both. Ultimately, though, the owners decided, not the Village of Libertyville.

    This is different from the topic at hand. The proposed development along Butterfield Road is not on unincorporated land, it is in Libertyville and has been for a very long time. The property owner cannot simply choose to join Mundelein. They would have to file petition to disconnect from Libertyville, and be annexed by Mundelein. The property would automatically become R-1 zoned in Mundelein (by Village rules), and the owner would have to negotiate with the Village for all the rezoning and variances needed to move forward (Libertyville is not the only Village that has Review Boards, Plan Commissions, community input, etc. after all). You would still have to answer for all the traffic/school/environmental concerns, and figure out how to get municipal services to the site. There is also a one year statutorily mandated delay in building on any disconnected land. All in all, I would say two to three years delay in ground breaking, and that is if Libertyville does not oppose. There is no telling how long the delay will be if it gets tied up in courts. What residential developer would be interested in such risks? What if there is a market downturn during the delay? If you were the property owner, would you voluntarily move your land from Libertyville to Mundelein knowing there is a chance for the sale to fall through during proceedings, leaving you holding Mundelein land with no buyer?

    The land owner and developer take on great risk by following through on disconnection threats. It is something that would probably happen in the long run if Libertyville stubbornly refused all requests for development, but the Village has much more negotiating leverage than their comments and actions thus far seem to suggest (or maybe they just really like high density communities). This is why, in my view, we are dealing with a tiny and inexperienced investment LLC, instead of an established area or national builder. I doubt either the owner or developer have any real interest in pursuing disconnection.

    Thanks very much for letting me ramble on your blog. There are many, many more issues at hand, but I suspect this has gone on too long already.

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