Mellody Farm developer asks for relief from lighting requirement

As buildings for the $200 million Mellody Farm development take shape in Vernon Hills, there is uncertainty regarding a small but important aspect of the plan.

The issue involves how the major intersection of Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21) and Townline Road (Route 60) will be lit and how that would be paid for if an extensive lighting plan is deemed necessary.

A condition of village approval for Mellody Farm requires the developer, Regency Centers Corp., to light the intersection. However, what Regency thought would amount to a light post at every corner and an expense of about $65,000 might balloon to $1 million or more because of a directive from the Illinois Department of Transporation.

"We know we had to light this intersection pursuant to our agreement with this village and we pursued that," Matt Hendy, Regency vice president and regional officer, told the village board Tuesday during an informal discussion of the situation.

Hendy said the company has been meeting with IDOT for six months on the plan, which will involve adding a traffic signal on Route 60, widening the intersection and approach roads, and other work estimated at $6 million.

"In none of those submittals, in none of the conversations with IDOT back to us, have they required or requested us to consider or even study lighting," he said. "This is strictly a village-led venture," he added.

If the village is going to require lights, IDOT says its standards must be met, Hendy said.

"IDOT has rejected lighting the intersection with four lights," he told the board. "They said to submit a full proposal underneath their guidelines."

The village agreement with Regency calls for roadway and transitional lighting that allows eyes to adjust from darkness to illumination, according to David Brown, public works director and village engineer.

The question is where the lighting starts and stops, Brown said. Regency tried to persuade IDOT to drop the transitional lighting requirement beyond the intersection but was not successful.

Citing time and expense, the company asked the village to drop the lighting requirement. Hendy said Regency has used all but $100,000 of its $2.3 million contingency fund for unexpected expenses, including other IDOT requirements and removing 15,000 cubic yards of unstable soil.

Mayor Roger Byrne asked what a full proposal to IDOT would mean.

"If you do everything within 800 feet (of the intersection) it would be over 100 poles and over $1 million," Hendy said.

"You've got to come up with a million bucks, is what you're saying?" Byrne asked.

"We don't have a million dollars. We don't have half a million dollars," Hendy replied.

Byrne noted the $20 million village incentive for the project.

"You're asking us to give you the money? We're into this 20 million bucks on behalf of the village. Does that count for anything?" Byrne asked.

Hendy said he was not asking for any money.

"Go back and cogitate with the powers that be at Regency then," Byrne responded. "Don't dump on us. This is ridiculous."

Hendy on Wednesday said the company was "confident there is an amicable solution."

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  Construction progresses Wednesday at the Mellody Farm development in Vernon Hills. The $200 million project is a mix of retail and residential with Whole Foods, REI, Nordstrom Rack and HomeGoods among the stores in the shopping center. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
  A carpenter works on the framing for a concrete wall as construction progresses Wednesday at Mellody Farm in Vernon Hills. The $200 million project is a mix of retail and residential with Whole Foods, REI, Nordstrom Rack and HomeGoods among the tenants. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
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