Lake County has master plan for its Libertyville campus

While some residents remain concerned about what someday could be built on the Lake County government campus in Libertyville, top village officials say approving a long-range plan for the site would be better than not having one at all.

Should the village deny the proposed master plan for the 172-acre campus, the county still could proceed with uses neighbors don’t like — such as parole or probation offices — but without the benefit of concessions agreed to in the proposal, Mayor Terry Weppler said.

Though it hasn’t suggested it would, the county could de-annex the property north and west from Milwaukee Avenue and Winchester Road and follow its own guidelines for development if the 20-year master plan is rejected by the village board, Weppler added.

“I don’t want to see us lose every bit of control we have over this property,” he said Monday night during an informal forum at the Libertyville Civic Center.

The property is in a zoning district that allows for churches, schools, hospitals and government buildings. The village required the county to assemble a master plan as part of the 2007 approval of the Central Permit Facility on the site.

Trying to impose greater restrictions than what are allowed in the code, or what the county has agreed to as part of the plan, could result in a legal challenge the village wouldn’t win, Weppler said.

“There’s a difference between changing certain codes and taking away property rights,” he said. “Basically, you can’t prevent a government from doing their job.”

About 30 people, including four village trustees, attended Monday’s session, organized by Weppler to bring the community up to speed in a final public airing of an issue that has been debated for more than a year. The village board is scheduled to vote on the proposed master plan Nov. 22.

Weppler argues the village will “gain more than what we have right now,” by approving the plan. Only the demolition and relocation of the Winchester House nursing home on site and construction of a storage facility have been mentioned as pending projects.

“We don’t have any plans. We’ve been asked to look at areas we haven’t used in 100 years,” said County Administrator Barry Burton, who attended the forum.

Residents are concerned about safety, particularly for children, in the surrounding area, which includes parks and a school.

“We don’t put facilities up that are unsafe. It doesn’t occur,” Burton said.

Even a spokesman for a resident group that has questioned the plan and helped wring concessions from the county, such as increased setbacks and lower building heights, agreed that what is on the table is probably the best that can be hoped for and isn’t worth the risk of fighting in court.

“The reality is it’s the unknown we’re fearful of,” said Rick Marder, a spokesman for Citizens United for Healthy Development in Libertyville. “I’m kind of resigning myself to the fact we’ve done the best that we can do.”

Marder said he has struggled with that conclusion.

“Building use is ultimately everybody’s concern. I haven’t heard anything from the legal community that says we can win this thing,” he said.

The county also has agreed not to build a correctional facility, which is allowed under current zoning; go through a more stringent review process for any 24-hour facilities in the northern portion of the site; and, provide public notification of pending facilities in the middle of the property.

Audience member Ken Chalifoux said the county should concede on building parole or probation offices on the site.

“Government officials change, priorities change,” Chalifoux said. “In this game of chicken, I’m saying let’s let them blink first.”

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