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updated: 2/8/2013 8:37 PM

Luxury rental community and townhouse plan could boost residential building in Vernon Hills

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  • Rendering of the proposed Greenleaf townhouse project in Vernon Hills.

    Rendering of the proposed Greenleaf townhouse project in Vernon Hills.
    Courtesy of Icon Building Group


Two housing plans of different size and scope are moving forward in Vernon Hills, a potential sign of growing demand for rentals and affordably priced homes.

The larger of the two, known as The Oaks luxury rental community, calls for 256 apartments and 48 rowhomes to be built on the former Kelly Day Camp and surrounding property along Route 45.

The second involves 16 townhouses in five buildings on Greenleaf Drive east of Butterfield Road -- approved in 2006 but never built by the original developer, though streets, curbs and other groundwork had been installed.

After about a year of review, the village board this week approved an ordinance giving preliminary approval, subject to 35 conditions, for the plat of subdivision, site and landscaping plans and the appearance of the buildings for The Oaks to be developed by the Kinzie Real Estate Group and Hamilton Partners.

Conditions to ensure the long-term maintenance of the property and a requirement for a traffic study before a 2-acre commercial parcel at the entrance is developed were last-minute additions by the village.

"My issue has nothing to do with this developer," Village Attorney Robert Kenny said before the ordinance was approved. "It's driven by 10 years from now, 15 years from now."

Kenny said the complex must be kept under a single ownership to avoid having individual buildings sold to various owners and subject to various maintenance standards.

Besides the 17 buildings, private roads, open space and detention ponds, The Oaks would feature a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse that would need to be maintained. The commercial piece would be excluded from the requirement.

Village officials say there is a high demand for rentals but recognize there eventually may be a desire to convert all or a portion of the project to condominiums. The village wants to be able to approve that conversion before it could happen so a proper association to care for the site is established.

"We have a lot of issues here that need to be addressed by one entity," Kenny said. "I don't want this issue to come up at the last minute."

The 31-acre property, which includes the former Leikam Tap, has been vacant for years. Original plans approved by the village three years ago called for office, industrial and retail uses, but that never materialized and the focus changed.

Traffic had been an issue for village officials but was addressed when developers bought adjoining property to allow for eastern access without affecting Route 45.

"I don't know anything is ideal given the traffic on Route 45," said David Brown, the village's public works director and engineer. "Residential is better than some of the alternatives."

Final plans must be reviewed by the village's planning and zoning commission and approved by the village board. The board also has to approve rezoning the property for multifamily and commercial use.

For the Greenleaf townhouse project, trustees agreed to several exterior changes to the buildings to include: replacing brick with stone and siding; replacing cedar shakes with fiberglass shingles; eliminating arched entries; changing the window placement; and altering the roof structure above the garages.

Icon Building Group of Algonquin, which acquired the property, said changes were needed to allow the units to be more marketable while maintaining the character of the original development.

All units would be three bedrooms and sell for $199,000 to $209,000, according to Icon President/CEO Mike Murphy.

"From what I'm seeing, it doesn't really look that bad. It's not English Tudor as originally proposed, but all in all, it's a nice mix," said Trustee Jim Schultz.

Murphy said the company has 40 homes under contract, mostly in Lake County, with another 10 or 15 in the pipeline and has been busy the past three years.

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