Planning for a Menards home improvement store in Vernon Hills advanced, but village officials say they will work to make the development as palatable as possible for neighbors who assailed the proposal over traffic and other issues.
After a lengthy -- and, at times, testy public comment session -- the village board in an informal vote Tuesday unanimously directed staff to prepare the paperwork to allow for the development on nearly 18 acres at the northwest corner of Gregg's Parkway and Milwaukee Avenue.
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More than 50 residents in Gregg's Landing to the west of the proposed store and Libertyville Ridge to the north showed up to oppose the measure. Several addressed the board and at times ripped officials for settling for something they said was less desirable than was possible.
"I think it's a really bad idea," said Julie Sneller, a resident of the Bay Hill neighborhood. "We would support development, but perhaps something that adds value."
Mayor Roger Byrne, who had opened the discussion by reminding residents it has been known since 1988 that the property some day would be developed, shot back.
"You understand how important the retail segment is to this town?" he asked. "And we don't tax your home."
Byrne also noted the 18 acres immediately south, which has been improved with a Mariano's grocery store, Lowe's home improvement and other uses, was part of the commercial portion of the original Gregg's Landing development.
"It was never going to lay fallow," he said.
Trustees assured the residents that many details remained to be worked out and there would be continuing opportunities for input.
"My intention is to hold them to the fire to ensure this is a quality development," Trustee Cindy Hebda said. She dispelled the notion raised by some that there were better uses, such as a Nordstrom or other stores, for the commercially zoned property.
"Those aren't going to happen," Hebda added. "We're not at an end point here. Yes, we will have a quality development. It will look nice. It will be pleasing."
Trustee Jim Schultz said shoppers in Vernon Hills don't support white tablecloth restaurants, for example, and Menards would not only improve the site but the village as a shopping destination.
Several residents said they loved the community but thought the plan for a two-story, 286,986-square-foot building, garden center and warehouse was ill advised, especially since Lowe's and Home Depot are in town.
"I think it's not wise to build a competitor right across the street," Sneller said. "I don't believe we can support three."
Village officials cited a consultant's report that said that would not be the case.
Resident David Oppenheim described the proposed building as a "monstrosity" not in keeping with special use standards.
Aspects, such as final landscaping and architectural features, need to be considered by the village's planning and zoning commission before heading back to the village board for discussion and an eventual final vote.