Fittest loser
Article updated: 11/6/2012 6:52 AM

Meijer to sell land near Lisle to housing developer

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Eight years after Meijer abandoned its legal fight to bring a store to Lisle, residents who opposed the retail giant's plan finally can celebrate.

Lisle trustees on Monday night gave a developer permission to build 162 houses on the 60-acre site along Maple Avenue near Benedictine University that Meijer originally acquired to construct a 215,000-square-foot store.

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By approving K. Hovnanian Homes' applications for annexation, rezoning and a special use permit, the village board paved the way for the developer to buy Meijer's property in unincorporated DuPage County.

"This is ending a long saga and a cloud that was over Lisle for many, many years," Mayor Joseph Broda said after the series of 5-1 votes.

Broda was a village trustee in 1998 when Meijer announced its plan to build on the vacant Maple Avenue site. In 1999, residents sued Lisle to invalidate the village's annexation and rezoning of the property to make way for the Meijer store.

Three years later, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld lower-court decisions voiding Lisle's actions, ruling that officials violated residents' rights by not allowing them to question Meijer representatives at a public hearing. The legal wrangling quietly ended in November 2004 when Meijer declined to appeal the decision.

At the time, Meijer opponents refused to declare ultimate victory because the Michigan-based company still owned the land.

Trustee Ed Young, who won his first election in 1999 while leading the battle to stop the Meijer store, said he and other opponents can now "celebrate the end to the Meijer saga." "Once they (K. Hovnanian Homes) purchase the property, that's it," Young said.

Broda says he believes Meijer agreed to sell the land because it finally realized that Lisle's political landscape has been changed and that it would be impossible to get a store built in the village.

Meanwhile, Young said he's looking forward to the housing development, which has been dubbed Arbor Trails subdivision.

"It's a great tribute to Lisle when you have a national homebuilder coming in to build 162 single-family homes in these economic times," Young said.

Representatives with K. Hovnanian Homes have said that they expect the developing to take at least four years to complete. The company hopes to sell about four houses a month at a price range of $300,000 to $600,000.

Still, not everyone is sold on the project.

Trustee Cathy Cawiezel, who cast the only negative vote Monday night, said she's concerned about the future homes being too close together and the site having no retail component.

"I just think that voting this in with 100 percent tract housing is squandering the last sizable parcel of land available to the community," she said.

Broda said a mixed-used project simply wouldn't work at the site, adding that there's already a nearby shopping center that's struggling. "The market is saturated with strip malls," he said.

Robert Klaeren, one of the Lisle residents who successfully battled Meijer in court, acknowledged that Arbor Trails will have a lot of houses. Still, he called the project "a very good compromise."

"No one ever is going to be completely happy with a project of this size," Klaeren said. "But we're very pleased a compromise has been found that is good for the community."

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