A controversial request from the Dimucci family to rezone 109 acres they own near Hawthorn Woods was approved by the Lake County Board on Tuesday.
The proposal, which had been publicly debated for months, passed in a series of unanimous votes in Waukegan. But it won't be the last time the issue comes up before county commissioners.
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The Dimuccis want the land -- at the corner of Rand and Old McHenry roads in unincorporated Lake County -- to be zoned as commercial property so a shopping center eventually can be built there. It's considered residential estate land now.
The county board agreed to make that change, but only after a retail development plan is submitted and approved by the board down the road.
A developer has not yet surfaced, nor is there a firm development plan for the unincorporated site.
The board approved the rezoning, a conditional use permit for the land and an intergovernmental agreement with the villages of Hawthorn Woods and North Barrington that will govern what type of retail center can be built on the land.
The village boards in the two towns haven't yet approved the deal, but their mayors helped design the agreement. It includes 80 pages of conditions for potential architects and builders.
Those rules concern building designs, the size of a potential mall and other elements. Much of the land will remain open space under the deal.
"We have never put this much effort into finding the right balance between the rights of the property owner and the interests of (neighbors)," said county Commissioner Bonnie Thomson Carter, an Ingleside Republican.
Carter leads the board's planning, building and zoning committee, which recently approved the proposal after a recommendation from an advisory zoning panel.
The proposal had earlier been rejected by the Lake County Regional Planning Commission, another independent advisory group. But that was before the leaders of Hawthorn Woods and North Barrington got involved.
John Dimucci, one of the siblings who made the rezoning request, said he felt the plan had momentum heading into Tuesday's discussion.
"From the beginning, we thought we had a really innovative plan and we're glad the county and the villages agree with us," he said.
Dozens of area residents criticized the proposal at a series of public meetings this summer, saying it would hurt property values, increase traffic and cause other problems.
Some also complained about the closed-door meetings between village and county officials that led to the agreement between the agencies.
Harry MacCartney, leader of an activist group that long has opposed development of the Dimucci land, was among the civilians who urged the county board to reject the proposal Tuesday.
He's particularly concerned that the intergovernmental agreement allows up to 650,000 square feet of retail space.
"This is not about what the buildings will look like or water fountains," he said. "This is about the size."
After the votes, MacCartney said his group isn't done with the proposal. It's launched a pair of investigations into the procedure that led to the rezoning being approved.
MacCartney declined to identify who is conducting the investigations.
Another critic who spoke at Tuesday's meeting was homeowner Jeff Sabitt, who lives across the street from the Dimucci land.
He complained a shopping center will hurt his property's value and change the character of the neighborhood, and he threatened legal action against the county.
As the proposal progressed this year, county staffers and officials held nine hours of open houses and more than 36 hours of public meetings on the matter, Carter said.
"We've listened to the public," she said.
Rezoned: Activist group says it will investigate the approval process