Residents seek injunction over homeless housing plan near Lake Zurich

Opponents try to halt plan to put homeless in Midlothian Manor

Opponents have gone to court to try to force a public vetting of a plan to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in a building just outside Lake Zurich.

Residents for an Engaged Community — a group with members from Lake Zurich, Hawthorn Woods and other nearby communities — is contesting the administrative permitting process for the Midlothian Manor building, which is owned by the Lake County Housing Authority.

Officials at PADS Lake County, a nonprofit homeless agency, want to move their Safe Haven program from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago to the vacant 14-unit building at Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane in an unincorporated area near Lake Zurich's north side.

At a court hearing Monday, Lake County Associate Judge Luis Berrones declined to issue an emergency temporary restraining order against the housing authority and PADS that could have immediately halted the permitting process. But the case continues, and a hearing is set for Feb. 20.

The complaint filed by the group's attorneys alleges the site is in a residential zoning classification in an unincorporated area that requires a conditional use permit for the homeless proposal. Such permits go through a standard approval process that includes discussion by elected officials and typically ends with a public vote by the Lake County Board.

As part of the residents' request for an injunction, court documents state the administrative process for a Midlothian Manor occupancy permit should be halted and the plan forced to adhere to a development ordinance set by the county board “until a full hearing on the merits is determined.”

The group also contends the housing authority should not be allowed to reclassify the property from assisted living to government use in an effort to obtain the occupancy permit through the administrative process.

Housing authority officials contend they don't need go before the county board and need only obtain the occupancy permit directly from the county's department of planning, building and development. Midlothian Manor is in a neighborhood of single-family houses in Ela Township.

David Northern, the housing authority's executive director and CEO, said in a letter to one of the group's members that Safe Haven clients need to move into Midlothian Manor because they are “in danger of being displaced” from the North Chicago medical complex.

“Now that this has become the subject of litigation, we are no longer able to meet with (the) group but are forced to let this play out in the courts,” Northern said Monday.

Residents for an Engaged Community attorney Daniel Shapiro stressed the group is not against PADS.

The proposal “really deserves a public hearing as a conditional use,” Shapiro said.

Midlothian Manor would house 14 residents screened by PADS in advance, with employees present 24 hours a day and resources such as a licensed clinical social worker and an advanced practice nurse. Safe Haven serves the chronically homeless with mental illness.

Safe Haven clients would rent their units from PADS by paying a portion of their income, from government assistance or a job. The building previously was operated by the housing authority as a senior facility.

Northern said his agency and PADS have taken into consideration opposition concerns that have included the possibility of additional crime and reduced property values as a result of Midlothian Manor, along with complaints about a lack of information. He said the housing authority intends to have a one-year probation clause in a lease with PADS as a result of the resident concerns.

Lake Zurich Mayor Thomas Poynton addressed Midlothian Manor at Monday's village board meeting. Similar to what officials told concerned residents last month, Poynton said there is nothing much the village can do about the proposal because it's outside Lake Zurich.

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