Give residents a voice before extending DiMucci development approval

As a news organization, we know deadlines.

And when a deadline is approaching, well, you'd better get done, or you've missed your chance.

In Lake County government, deadlines are a little more fluid.

Owners of a 109-acre plot of land at Old McHenry Road and Route 12 near Hawthorn Woods missed a 2017 deadline to secure a developer to build a shopping center under a conditional use permit Lake County granted in 2012.

So Lake County administratively granted a two-year extension.

That extension runs out next week. No developer is lined up, and land owner Robert DiMucci is asking today for another two-year extension. This time, the county board's public works, planning and transportation committee must decide, our reporter Mick Zawislak wrote on Tuesday. The committee meets at 8:30 a.m. today in Libertyville.

The head of planning, building and development for Lake County, Eric Waggoner, recommends giving DiMucci another extension.

Should another two years be allowed? The history of the property gives us pause.

In 2012, hundreds of people protested the proposal allowing a 650,000-square-foot shopping center on the property at the rural intersection. For comparison, Deer Park Town Center is 406,304 square feet, according to the village of Deer Park.

The idea for a shopping center - then envisioned as an enclosed mall - first surfaced in the 1990s, but was shelved after hundreds of residents protested. Given the intense interest, it seems fair that residents should get another look before another extension is summarily granted. Homes have changed hands, with many owners potentially unaware of the shopping center proposal. There's a new mayor in North Barrington, which agreed to share sales tax with Hawthorn Woods and Lake County if a shopping center is built.

Certainly, the retail climate has changed significantly since 2012. Residents would be curious to hear whether the vision for the site has changed, as well.

A public hearing to update the plans would rightly loop residents in, and Lake County should require one before moving ahead.

Yes, time is tight. The expiration is Oct. 9. However, the letter from the property owner requesting an extension is dated Sept. 15, suggesting confidence that another two years easily would be secured. As for Lake County, it seems disingenuous to establish a deadline and then keep setting it aside.

The DiMuccis and the county board's public works, planning and transportation committee want the project to go ahead. Maybe neighbors do, too, but they should be heard.

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