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posted: 2/8/2014 8:00 AM

Grayslake hopes fee revision will make old fairgrounds site appealing

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  • The former Lake County fairgrounds at routes 120 and 45 in Grayslake has remained undeveloped since the last county fair was held there in 2008.

      The former Lake County fairgrounds at routes 120 and 45 in Grayslake has remained undeveloped since the last county fair was held there in 2008.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer


With plans for a major shopping area at the former Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake defunct, village officials hope a revised agreement regarding road improvements will boost the potential of the long-idled site at routes 45 and 120.

"This is the first step in making it more marketable," Mayor Rhett Taylor said of the pending change in the pact with Lake County.

The main change would restructure the fee to a per-acre basis for roadwork surrounding the 104-acre site. At $46,403 an acre, the estimated $4.8 million total is a dramatic drop from the original $21 million estimate.

"It didn't make sense to leave it in place," said Taylor, who approached the county about making changes. "With the decline in national property values, the transportation fee element makes the property unsellable."

He said the revised pact is more flexible and allows for road needs to be met while allowing for economic development.

The lower figure reflects development realities and acknowledges that considerable roadwork, such as the widening of Route 45, already has been done, officials said.

"The economy has changed and there is no one large developer anymore, according to the village," said Paula Trigg, county engineer. "This amendment allows the parcel to be looked at as not one large development, but smaller developments."

The county board Tuesday will consider the revised agreement, and the village board will vote on it at a future meeting.

Grayslake Zoning Officer Kirk Smith said nothing is pending or planned at this point.

"The development world has changed considerably since '07," Smith said. "Rather than having one large developer, this could be developed in parcels. This puts a per-acre fee on developments that come in."

When the Lake County Fair Association announced plans to sell its longtime home and build new facilities elsewhere in the village, the prime site in central Lake County was expected to be a hotbed of development.

And with a major retail center considered a likely prospect, county officials knew there would be a big impact on traffic. In 2005, an agreement was inked calling for the village to reimburse the county for roadwork deemed necessary to accommodate the new use.

At the time, the estimated cost of those various improvements was about $21 million, which the village intended to collect from the developer. But times have changed and a revision is in order, Taylor said.

Property owner Developer Diversified Realty Corp., of suburban Cleveland, received village approval to redevelop the old fairgrounds into an 807,000-square-foot shopping center more than six years ago. The property has remained essentially unchanged since 2008, when the last county fair was held there and has been for sale, according to village officials. The company didn't respond to requests for comment.

Smith said the shopping center approvals are no longer in effect.

"Anybody who comes in would have to start from square one," he said.

Smith said any developer at the site still would pay a share of road improvements.

"I don't want to make it seem like the developer is getting a break," he said. "That's not the case."

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