U.S. District Court Judge Milton Shadur on Wednesday dismissed a federal lawsuit against Arlington Heights filed by advocates of the controversial Boeger Place apartments for people with mental illness.
The plaintiffs, which included the project's developers and housing advocates, argued the village violated laws on fair housing and disabilities by refusing to modify zoning rules for the proposed 30-unit apartment building on Arlington Heights' north side.
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The village argued the decision to deny the developers' request upheld its zoning regulations, and that village leaders had never before approved any project with such significant zoning variances as those being sought for Boeger Place.
In the ruling made public Wednesday, Shadur sided with the village, saying "There is no evidence that Arlington Heights would have approved any application requesting such large variances from zoning code with respect to unit density, minimum unit size and minimum parking spaces, regardless of the intended tenants."
Although the variances would have made the housing more affordable to residents, that is not required by the law, the ruling said.
Shadur also disagreed with the plaintiffs' characterization of the village's zoning ordinances as "unreasonable." He said supportive housing projects already serving people with mental illness in Arlington Heights "buttress the determination that the Village Board is not biased …."
The plaintiffs will consult with their attorneys before deciding whether to appeal or what steps to take next, said Hugh Brady, co-president of a task force of parents of adult children with mental illness.
"We are extremely disappointed," he added. "The judge's ruling doesn't do away with the need for supportive housing. That avenue is closed temporarily at least."
Allison Bethel, director of the Fair Housing Clinic at The John Marshall Law School, which represented the plaintiffs, said she had not studied the decision yet and could only express disappointment.
Village President Arlene Mulder said village officials were "very pleased."
There is no reason the village cannot work with the plaintiffs on a future project, said Mulder, who agrees there is a need for more housing for people with mental illness.
"There's nothing personal here," she said.
Among the village's criticisms of the plan, Mulder said, were its density and lack of sufficient parking.
"The village did nothing wrong," she added. "We applied the same codes that are there for any developer. The decision had nothing to do with characteristics of the residents they were trying to serve. It was the building. They were trying to build too much in too small a space."
The plaintiffs include the three parties to the development: the parents' task force; Thresholds, a not-profit that would provide mental health services at the building; and Daveri Development Group, a for-profit developer. A potential resident of the building and the site's current owners also joined the suit as plaintiffs.
The vacant site is just south of Dundee Road and east of Arlington Heights Road.
Shadur dismissed the suit with prejudice, which bars the plaintiffs from amending their complaint and refiling based on the same set of facts. However, the project's backers can appeal.