A proposed Menards home improvement store in Vernon Hills has received the OK for continued review, but the village board's direction came after it was peppered with concerns about the project and the process.
Construction and truck traffic on Gregg's Parkway, design elements, the size and height of the building, drainage, landscaping, and even displaced animals were among the questions from neighboring residents during a lengthy discussion Tuesday.
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While showing general support to move the project ahead to various reviews, village officials questioned aspects of the plan, such as having a separate warehouse building.
They also were on the defensive at times about allegations of taking the easy road to potential sales tax dollars, and reiterated the site has been zoned for retail use since 1988.
"Menards is a fine addition if we can make this all work out," Trustee Jim Schultz said.
Chet Lis, a director on the Gregg's Landing Homeowners Association, worked with the developer, Bradford Real Estate, on the Lowe's store in the development south of Gregg's Parkway.
"The proposed (Menards') design is a big massive box. We don't want a big massive box," Lis said in suggesting a list of architectural preferences.
Some skeptical residents thought the proposal for a two-story, 223,775-square-foot store north of Gregg's Parkway at Milwaukee Avenue, just east of the upscale neighborhoods of Gregg's Landing, has been predetermined.
"This sounds like a done deal to me, and I think the residents should be heard," Mitch Portugal of Inverness Drive said during the hour and 40-minute presentation and informal discussion.
"This type of big box development does not suit this community," added Dennis Skidmore of Trevino Drive.
Skidmore and others called for a development of the site with more upscale businesses, such as at Glen Town Center in Glenview, and questioned how three home improvement stores (Vernon Hills also has a Home Depot) could coexist.
"If you expect a Deer Park (Town Center) or The Glen, it's just not going to happen here," Trustee Cindy Hebda said.
Mayor Roger Byrne said the rights of the property owner have to be balanced with those of residents. Rejecting a legitimate proposal would invite a lawsuit, he added.
Trustees emphasized that Tuesday's discussion was just the start of a give and take between the village, Bradford and Menards that will include input from Gregg's Landing homeowner associations. A public hearing will be held before the village board makes a final decision.
"The developer can't walk out of here and feel like he's got it in the bag," Village Attorney Robert Kenny told the audience.
Menards has been talking with village staff for about three months about what would be the anchor store on the Gregg's Landing north parcel. The southern part has been developed over the past few years with a Lowe's, Mariano's grocery store and other uses.
"This is the very beginning. It introduces the concept in public for the first time ... seeking the board's direction, seeking public comments," Trustee Tom Koch said.
The facility would replace the Menards on Route 60 in Mundelein that's closing for good after business Friday.
"We're not in position in Mundelein anymore to put our best foot forward," said Thomas W. O'Neil, representing Menards.
He said aesthetics will be important in Vernon Hills and various measures, such as windows and the use of brick, already have been incorporated.
"We're trying to upgrade the store very, very significantly," O'Neil told the board.