Lake Zurich-area residents win fight over PADS proposal

A group of residents prevailed in a fight over a proposal to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in a building in their Lake Zurich-area neighborhood.

In a public hearing that spanned three sessions, the Lake County zoning board of appeals Tuesday voted 5-1 to reverse an administrative decision that classified the former Midlothian Manor facility as a permitted government use necessary for the plan to proceed. Some of roughly 40 spectators in the gallery applauded after the vote.

Currently vacant, Midlothian Manor is a former senior facility owned by the Lake County Housing Authority, a government agency. PADS Lake County, a private nonprofit homeless organization, had wanted to rent the Ela Township structure from the housing authority for its clients.

Zoning board of appeals member Al Westerman was among the officials who spoke before rendering the decision.

"I found no evidence (Tuesday) that there's a right that a government agency can lease (a building) out to a not-for-government agency and still retain the category of government use," Westerman said.

Under the proposal, PADS would have moved its Safe Haven program from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago to the facility at Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane near Lake Zurich's northern edge. Safe Haven serves the chronically homeless with mental illness.

The housing authority quietly received an occupancy permit for the government use through a county administrative process this year. Residents for an Engaged Community, an opposition group, filed an objection to the permit that would have allowed PADS to use Midlothian Manor - a move that triggered the zoning board of appeals public hearing.

Opposition group member Cheryl Gorey, who lives next to Midlothian Manor, said she was confident in her side's position as attorney Daniel Shapiro presented their case during the hearing.

"We thought 100 percent that we could do this," Gorey said. "I think a lot of people thought there's no way we could win. ... We just all stuck together."

PADS Executive Director Joel Williams said the organization must leave the Lovell space by June 30. He said PADS will need to scramble to find somewhere for the Safe Haven clients to live.

It's not yet known if Tuesday's decision will be the final word on the issue.

"We're going to be exploring all of our options with our attorneys," Williams said. "So, at this point, I don't know what our next step is in this particular process."

Opponents cited concerns about the effect the proposal could have had on the neighborhood, including the potential for declining property values and crime. Proponents said Midlothian Manor would have provided stable, affordable housing for the PADS clients.

PADS would have screened the 14 residents before they moved into Midlothian Manor. Employees would be present 24 hours a day, with available resources such as a licensed clinical social worker and an advanced practice nurse.

Zoning board of appeals members voiced concern about the PADS residents gathering as a group in a main entrance lobby at Midlothian Manor, which would not be a permitted use in the residential area. Williams testified the residents would have had individual living units and were unlikely to socialize with each other.

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  Attorney Daniel Shapiro questions a witness during Tuesday's Lake County zoning board of appeals hearing over a proposal to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in the former Midlothian Manor building near Lake Zurich. Shapiro represented residents opposed to the plan. Bob Susnjara/
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