Decision has Lake County mall opponents optimistic
The village presidents of North Barrington and Hawthorn Woods hope Wednesday's Regional Plan Commission recommendation against an 800,000-square-foot commercial development between their two towns will help their effort to fight the proposal through the rest of the Lake County review process.
But they say the slightly different focus of the zoning board of appeals, which will hold a public hearing on the matter July 18, will require a slightly different approach.
While the planning commission was tasked with looking at the broad, regional impact of the proposal, the zoning board is meant to be much more detailed in its analysis of the land use.
"The zoning board requires a more tactical approach," North Barrington Village President Al Pino said. "We'll talk about different things. This will be more about technical issues."
Hawthorn Woods Village President Joe Mancino agreed, adding that the zoning board will provide a greater challenge for the opposition to get its points across.
"I believe it will be the same information in a more granular fashion," Mancino said.
The plan commission voted Wednesday 5-3 against the plan, which calls for the development on the 109-acre Dimucci property at Rand and Old McHenry roads.
Several commission members said the current preliminary stage of the proposal didn't provide enough details for them to judge its ultimate regional impact.
John Dimucci, one of the landowners, said he and his siblings are trying to improve the site's marketability by getting it rezoned before a developer is identified.
He said they hope to prepare the site for the day when market conditions are better, as well as repair the bad reputation it acquired when strong opposition to a Taubman Co. proposal for a 1.2 million-square-foot regional mall in the 1990s seemed to sour its future prospects.
Mancino said he understands that in the absence of a good market for commercial development, all the Dimuccis can do is prepare for its return. But he and Pino still maintain that the proposal as it stands is not in the best interest of either their villages or the entire region.
"The greatest fear is the potential size and scope and the unknown use," Mancino said.
Pino said he's dismayed by the argument that this is the best deal the two villages are going to get, as well as that the county is the agency best able to handle the development.
"If we weren't competent to handle this, how did we build Wynstone?" he asked, referring to North Barrington's upscale golf course community on 650 acres. Pino said that project required 10 times the engineering the Dimucci proposal does.
He also suggests the plan to develop only 53 of the site's 109 acres is not the gift of open space that's been implied, but instead is because poor soil conditions make it impossible to build on the remaining acreage.
Pino said he's most hopeful that the plan commission's recommendation will deter other Lake County Board members from blindly following the lead of retiring District 17 board member Stevenson Mountsier, who's endorsed the proposal.
"It's one thing to show deferential treatment to a county board member, but he's a lame duck," Pino said.
The zoning board is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. July 18 at Concorde Banquets, 20922 N. Rand Road in Kildeer.
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