New mall plan could reignite old Taubman land war

A major commercial development has again been proposed for the 109-acre site between North Barrington and Hawthorn Woods where an ultimately rejected plan for a regional shopping mall sparked war between the villages 16 years ago.

But unlike the controversial Taubman proposal of 1996 that was finally settled by a highly restrictive boundary agreement, the land's owners are now bypassing the villages and taking the new proposal directly to Lake County.

North Barrington Village President Al Pino said he was completely taken aback when he learned recently of the proposed 800,000-square-foot retail and commercial development at the southeast corner of Rand and McHenry roads.

His outrage grew after learning county officials had been working on the proposal for more than a year without informing the neighboring municipalities.

But Lake County District 17 Board Member Stevenson Mountsier, whose district includes the development site, said the criticism isn't fair. He said he alerted Pino's predecessor, former North Barrington Village President Bruce Sauer, that land owners Robert and Constance Dimucci had approached the county two years ago. He assumed the word had been passed along when the administrations changed.

Mountsier said he will support the proposal when it comes before the county board, probably in May.

“These people, the Dimuccis, want it to be a first-class shopping center,” Mountsier said. “I know they're willing to do whatever the ordinances call for. I can tell you it will be a first-class job.”

Lake County Administrator Barry Burton said the proposal not only meets county standards, but is a less intensive use than that called for in the boundary agreement between North Barrington and Hawthorn Woods.

“This will actually be a very upscale, high-quality development,” Burton said.

For North Barrington, the matter has become so urgent it has put all other issues on the back burner, Pino said.

And Hawthorn Woods has scheduled a special village board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at its village hall, 2 Lagoon Drive, to address the proposal. Village President Joseph Mancino said he will be asking his board for a resolution opposing the project.

“I was surprised by the (lack) of notice that was given,” Mancino said. “Some of the things they're asking for are unprecedented — a planned unit development without a plan and automatic renewal of the PUD for five years. It's very heavy-handed.”

While the representatives of the proposal are talking up the open space that will remain on the site, all Mancino said he sees is 1.3 million square feet of impervious surface, including the parking lots.

“We are not anti-development,” Mancino said. “It's the process by which it's been handled thus far that we are objecting to.”

Meanwhile, the Lake County Regional Planning Commission has already scheduled a public meeting of its own on the proposal at 3 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6 at the Ela Area Library, 275 Mohawk Trail in Lake Zurich.

The proposal, which doesn't specify any specific building plans, was submitted by RK123, a limited liability company whose trustees are Robert and Constance Dimucci.

Their attorney, Mark Eiden, said the owners are of a generation too young to have had anything to do with the late 1990s Taubman proposal for a 1.2 million-square-foot mall.

All they want to do, Eiden said, is resolve the appropriate use for the property, having learned from what occurred before.

“That's the big difference,” he said. “There is no developer whose economic development is driving the approval.”

Eiden said the amount of commercial property on the site aligns with Hawthorn Woods' comprehensive plan. But the proposal is even more restrictive by leaving open space where the comprehensive plan calls for housing.

The Dimuccis took their proposal directly to Lake County and not Hawthorn Woods because of what Eiden calls the confusing and sometimes contradictory boundary agreements among the area's municipalities.

“The villages have confused the land-use issues so much that there's no benefit to being in the villages instead of the county,” he said. “Quite frankly, the county has a very expert staff that can handle all of this in-house.”

Though the plan doesn't have a lot of specifics yet, there are things known for sure that it won't be, Eiden said.

There will be no residential, manufacturing or industrial uses on the property. Beyond that, there could be any combination of as retail, restaurants, office space or movie theaters, depending on market demands.

It's not known whether there will be one building or many, but the paved areas will be restricted to 53 of the 109 acres.

“It's not determined that this will be all a shopping center,” Eiden said. “We want to find the land use. This deal is years out. There is nobody even knocking on the door.”

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