Opponents of Midlothian Manor near Lake Zurich cite location, safety

Members of a Lake Zurich-area residents group gathered Monday night to discuss their effort to block a proposal for homeless people with mental illness from moving into a Lake County Housing Authority building just outside the village.

Safety and property values were among the concerns raised by Residents for an Engaged Community at the session at Ela Area Public Library. About 125 people attended, with some in the crowd in favor of the proposal for the 14-unit Midlothian Manor in unincorporated Lake County.

In November, a Lake County judge's decision revived the homeless plan for the building at Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane in Ela Township, on Lake Zurich's northern edge. The PADS Lake County homeless agency would operate the facility for the housing authority.

Residents for an Engaged Community have taken the case to an Illinois appellate court in an effort to block the housing authority from using Midlothian Manor for a federal Safe Haven program serving the chronically homeless with mental illness. Midlothian Manor has been vacant since 2010.

Lake Zurich resident Kevin Croke, a suburban police officer, raised several safety concerns at Monday's meeting in his portion of Residents for an Engaged Community's presentation. He said Midlothian Manor is in a low-service area for the Lake County sheriff's office, which covers Midlothian Manor.

"When it comes to public safety, response time is everything in controlling the situation and limiting the damage or injury that may occur to people," Croke said. "The sooner you can get there, the sooner you can intervene, take control of the situation and render aid to the injured."

Residents for an Engaged Community member Dale Hutchinson said property values are likely to drop if the Safe Haven program occupies Midlothian Manor. He called on the crowd to get involved with government officials and community groups to call attention to the plan.

Hutchinson also encouraged spectators to take signs available at the meeting that read: "Midlothian Manor. Good Cause. Wrong Location."

During a sometimes chippy question-and-answer period, some in the crowd supported the Midlothian Manor plan. Lake Zurich resident Paul Virgilio criticized organizers for not inviting Lake County Housing Authority representatives to the session.

"We are getting an incredible amount of slanted information from one side," Virgilio said.

Midlothian Manor opponents said the homeless would not benefit living in a building that is not convenient to public transportation, stores or other services.

Lake County Judge Thomas Schippers presided over the lawsuit filed by the housing authority in July 2015. The agency went to court after the Lake County zoning board of appeals reversed approval of an occupancy permit that would have allowed the homeless to live in Midlothian Manor through a lease with PADS.

Schippers agreed with the housing authority and overturned the zoning board's occupancy permit reversal. The zoning panel became involved in early 2015 after the nearby residents formally objected to the permit issuance in part because they contended it was not an allowed government use under county zoning regulations.

Court documents show the publicly funded housing authority contended the loss of the occupancy permit unfairly denied the agency use of a building it owns for government purposes.

Plans for Midlothian Manor were not publicly known until the Daily Herald obtained documents from the housing authority through an open-records request in late 2014. PADS would run the Safe Haven program at Midlothian Manor with involvement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Residents for an Engaged Community reported raising $29,000 of a goal of $50,000 to contest the Midlothian Manor proposal through the appeals process.

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Lake County Housing Authority wants 14 chronically homeless people with mental illness in Midlothian Manor, just outside Lake Zurich. The former seniors facility has been vacant since 2010. Daily Herald file photo
  About 125 people attended a meeting Monday night at Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich regarding a proposal to place the chronically homeless in the vacant, 14-unit Midlothian Manor just outside the village. The meeting was hosted by opposition group Residents for an Engaged Community. Midlothian Manor is owned by the Lake County Housing Authority. Bob Susnjara/
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