No decision yet on controversial plan for homeless in Lake Zurich area

Opponents of a proposal to house chronically homeless people with mental illness in an Ela Township residential area will have to wait a while longer to learn whether the plan will be dropped or face further scrutiny.

The Lake County zoning board of appeals is weighing whether an administrative decision that designated a vacant former senior center near Lake Zurich as a government use should stand. If not, the plan by the PADS homeless agency to house 14 clients in the building known as Midlothian Manor could face additional hurdles.

During a hearing Tuesday, opponents argued the proposal would have a negative impact on the neighborhood near Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane.

That session continued Thursday, with the other side making its case.

“You didn't get the whole story,” Lisle Stalter, an assistant Lake County state's attorney, told the zoning board to start the session. About 50 lawyers, staff members, residents and others attended Thursday's session, down considerably from the estimated 200 on Tuesday. But even after four hours of dense technical and sometimes contentious give and take, the administration had not finished its presentation, and the hearing was continued to 9 a.m. May 26, at the Lake County permit facility, 500 W. Winchester Road, Libertyville.

“It was very in-depth about zoning law, as it should be because that's what this is about,” said Sheri Buergey, a board member of opposition group Residents for an Engaged Community. “It's unfamiliar territory for a lot of us.”

Eric Waggoner, the county's director of planning, building and development, and David Northern Sr., head of the Lake County Housing Authority, were the only two witnesses to testify Thursday. Both were peppered at length on the timing and rationale for decisions surrounding the county-owned property.

The housing authority bought the property in 2001, and it was used as a senior facility until it closed in 2010. It's been vacant since.

The authority examined several options for the building and ultimately chose a partnership with PADS, Northern said. The agency wants to place 14 clients from its Safe Haven program in the building.

Waggoner said he looked at the “totality of available information” to reach his decision.

“It is simply to interpret the regulations and carry them out as defined in the (unified development) ordinance,” he said of his role. The decision was not meant to favor the housing authority or circumvent review by the zoning board of appeals, he said.

Opponents said the facility resembles a group living classification and was improperly categorized as a government use.


PADS: Hearing focuses on zoning law

  David Northern Sr., executive director/CEO of the Lake County Housing Authority, testifies Thursday before the Lake County zoning board of appeals. Mick Zawislak/
  PADS Lake County wants to place 14 chronically homeless people with mental illness in Midlothian Manor just outside Lake Zurich. Bob Susnjara/, 2014
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