Lawsuit unlikely in Palatine supportive housing case
Shortly after controversial permanent supportive housing proposals were voted down in both Arlington Heights and Wheeling, the developer responded by filing a lawsuit.
That course of action doesn't appear imminent in Palatine's case, however, despite the council's decision this week to deny similar affordable apartments for people with disabilities.
"I don't think we have legal recourse," Kenneth Young Center CEO Mitch Bruski said. "The goal of finding housing for the people who need it has not been at all impacted, but a lawsuit is not in the cards" as a means to move the project forward.
Bruski acknowledged he can't speak on behalf of the entire partnership, the stakeholders of which are Kenneth Young Center and UP Development. But he said the two organizations would act together. Project manager Jessica Berzac of UP Development said she's still researching the issues and can't comment yet.
Bruski said he doesn't think a lawsuit would be fruitful because the property at 345 N. Eric Drive in Palatine needs to be rezoned from manufacturing to residential. The federal Fair Housing Act doesn't pre-empt local land use and zoning laws.
That's different from Wheeling, where the village board had already approved a plan for luxury apartments at the same site as the 50-unit PhilHaven permanent supportive housing project at 2418-2422 W. Hintz Road.
Although Wheeling officials cited concerns about zoning, flooding, safety and upset neighbors, a judge ruled Daveri Development, an entity related to UP Development, had a better than negligible chance of winning because it was clear there was a "discriminatory effect" and "some evidence of discriminatory intent" on the part of the village.
The lawsuit was settled earlier this year. Wheeling officials maintained the board's vote wasn't motivated by discrimination but agreed to pay $230,000 for the plaintiff's legal costs. The developer recently applied for funding and hopes to break ground on the project next spring.
In Arlington Heights, a judge said the village was within its right to deny the 30-unit Boeger Place project and dismissed the developer's lawsuit. The village argued leaders had never before approved any project with such significant zoning variances.
Bruski said the housing partnership that sought to build Catherine Alice Gardens will take up Palatine's offer to continue searching for a more appropriate location in the village. Village Manager Reid Ottesen said he already has started working to identify vacant properties that have residential characteristics and proximity to commercial amenities and transportation.
"Whether the property owners have any interest, I don't know," Ottesen said. "I can just identify them and leave it up to the developer to initiate discussion."
Bruski said the partnership also is talking to some other municipalities to gauge interest. He said the Palatine council's vote was a setback, but he's trying to remain optimistic. He referenced a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. to illustrate his outlook.
"'The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,'" Bruski said. "In the meantime, there are detours."
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