Although the warehouse on the property has been vacant for more than a decade, a majority of the Palatine council voted against a controversial permanent supportive housing development on the chance a manufacturer could eventually move in.
The council on Monday voted 4-2 against preliminary plans for Catherine Alice Gardens, a 33-unit affordable apartment building that would have served people with disabilities at 345 N. Eric Drive.
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"I'd like to see us keep our commercial base and the possibility of jobs," Councilman Tim Millar said to a standing-room-only crowd. "You're never going to get this (manufacturing parcel) back. It represents 2 percent of all industrial property, and I'd be very concerned to lose that."
Brad Helms, Kollin Kozlowski and Scott Lamerand also voted against the $10.5 million project, which was backed by UP Development, Alexian Brothers, the Kenneth Young Center and the North/Northwest Suburban Task Force on Suburban Housing for People with Mental Illness. The partnership had agreed to more than 20 conditions imposed by the village, including employing a live-in overnight residential assistance manager.
The opponents pointed to the loss of potential revenue. The property taxes, currently about $30,000 annually, were expected to climb to $40,000 a year if the development had been built. Lamerand estimated a manufacturing business operating at full capacity would generate about $115,000 in property taxes.
But Mayor Jim Schwantz argued the property may very well remain vacant for years to come.
Building owner Mel Boldt said he did everything he could to find a buyer for the "dilapidated" warehouse, using multiple real estate agents and dropping the purchase price more than once. The Catherine Alice Gardens partnership was the only bite he got. Schwantz also echoed earlier testimony that the building is considered too big for most commercial uses, and not conducive to an industrial use.
"While I do think (the housing market and economy) are coming back ... it's a dinosaur," Schwantz said. "The building would need to be razed; it would need to be torn down."
Schwantz added that while he supports manufacturing, a business would need to invest that much more capital because the building isn't viable. He also said officials should consider the possibility of property violations, taking up valuable staff time.
The opposing councilmen reiterated they support the project, just not the location. They said the village will work with the developer to see whether someplace else might work. But project manager Jessica Berzac said the partnership analyzed more than 15 sites in Palatine, and that council members throughout two years of discussions agreed the Eric Drive property made the most sense.
Kenneth Young Center CEO Mitch Bruski said the council didn't take into consideration all the business the new residents would have brought in by shopping, eating and otherwise contributing to the area. He believes the vote -- despite what officials said -- boiled down to politics and neighbors not wanting to live near people with disabilities.
"They can pretend it's not, but this is about disabled people," Bruski said. "We're disappointed. We think the project is a good thing, and I really thought the council would have seen the value this would have brought to the community. It's a real loss."