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updated: 11/19/2013 7:01 AM

Vernon Hills considers memory care facility for vacant site

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Plans have come and gone over the years but there finally may be a user for a long-vacant site along Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills.

The Springs of Vernon Hills, an assisted living facility for adults with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, is proposed for a 6.6-acre site south of the Walter E. Smithe furniture store between North Woodbine Circle and South Woodbine Circle.

First presented as a concept to the board in May, village staff has been working with Dallas-based South Bay Partners to fine tune plans for the 70-bed, single-story facility.

In a 6-0 vote last week, the village's planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the project subject to 21 conditions. South Bay wants to rezone the property from office/research to multifamily and is seeking a special use permit.

The village board will consider the request in an informal work session following its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.

Questions regarding the need for this type of project, vehicle access, traffic, tree preservation, truck and generator noise, screening and fencing were raised by nearby residents at the planning and zoning public hearing. However, no one spoke against the plan.

Among the adjustments were increasing the fence height on the west property line, adding landscaping, moving the generator and restricting generator operating and truck delivery times.

Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar said South Bay essentially has worked through all the issues.

Because the site is heavily wooded, a tree preservation and long-term maintenance plans must be approved by the village before a building permit would be issued, Kalmar said.

Earlier this year, South Bay representatives told the board its research showed there was a need for a dedicated memory care facility in Vernon Hills.

The company provides Alzheimer's care at facilities in Springfield, Urbana, Normal, Joliet and Plainfield. If approved, it would join Autumn Leaves, which also has several locations in Illinois, as the only other dedicated memory care facility in the village.

The site originally was approved in 1999 for a hotel and office development known as County Mayo, but that fizzled and the permission was rescinded. In 2011, developers proposed a high-end restaurant and banquet facility but that didn't materialize either.

Kalmar said the area has good visibility but may have been hampered as a commercial site because of a lack of similar uses nearby, compared to the areas closer to Route 60 to the north and Route 45 to the south.

"It's kind of the hole in the doughnut, so to speak," he said.

Among the recommended conditions for the Springs of Vernon Hills are that construction begin within six months and that the zoning reverts to its original designation if it is not complete within two years.

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