Glenview residents weigh in - again - on developer's new try for shopping center at Willow-Pfingsten

There was more panning - much more - of the proposed Willow Crossing Shopping Center at Tuesday night's Glenview Plan Commission meeting.

Three weeks ago, 30 residents voiced their angst over the GW Properties plan for an Amazon Fresh-anchored shopping center at 2660 Pfingsten Road.

On Tuesday, Glenview deputy director of community development Jeff Rogers swore in 30 more remote callers who, though civil, vehemently opposed a possible zoning change from R-1 residential to B-1 limited business on the bulk of the now-disheveled 8.30-acre property at the southwest corner of Willow and Pfingsten roads.

"We chose this very property on Miller (Drive) because of the beautiful view we once had," said a caller immediately south of the former Hart Estate.

"I've always felt, in the 47 years I've lived here, that this property was residential and should remain residential," said another from Lizette Lane, ending about 2 hours, 37 minutes of public comment moderated by Plan Commission Chair Steve Bucklin.

And that will be the last of that, at least before the Plan Commission. A fifth meeting in this bimonthly series that started Feb. 23 will be held April 27, when the GW Properties team will respond to the residents' points.

Whether it's April 27 or beyond, the Plan Commission will then deliberate the proposal's fitness for a zoning change before possible recommendation to the Glenview board of trustees.

Much of the ground Tuesday had already been covered March 23. The neighbors repeated beliefs that the village would gain more in taxes by keeping the property residential, that a big, new store with smaller shops and restaurants would "cannibalize" other businesses rather than create new revenue, and that Amazon Fresh is not really a grocery store but "a distribution center." They noted abundant commercial vacancies that already exist.

A handful of medical workers provided the "minutes matter" argument against more traffic joining an already crowded area with Glenbrook Hospital just blocks away. Safety concerns, congestion and practicality of traffic flow were again a predominant theme, particularly with school cross walks and student lunchtime destinations nearby.

One caller projected Amazon's intent to develop "ruthless" autonomous vehicles.

"We're talking about the safety of our kids and our families here," said another.

Callers did add a couple fresh points.

"No one has even talked about the ... public safety costs a shopping center like this will have (as) a much bigger drain on police, fire and ambulance service," said a 30-year homeowner at Brett Lane.

A mother of schoolchildren living on Saranac Lane crunched numbers and disagreed with GW Properties' claim that residential development at the space would stress Northbrook/Glenview District 30 schools.

"The small number of students could be handled by the existing school infrastructure (with) little added cost to the school districts. Property taxes alone generated by the homes would more than cover the costs of the added students," she said.

Familiar actors engaged. Aihong Yu, among the plaintiffs in the September 2019 lawsuit that ultimately led to an appellate court in November 2020 reversing a circuit court decision to strike an injunction against construction, said "moral" considerations must be taken into account.

Attorney William Seitz, who has an active lawsuit against the village concerning the proposed Drake development at 1850 Glenview Road, typified the village's stance on the Hart Estate as a new case independent of prior zoning action as "a legal fiction."

(The aforementioned Miller Drive resident said: "Although this case is different, the developer is not.")

There came Brett Hanley, also of Miller Drive and a plaintiff in another lawsuit about Hart Estate rezoning. He was back with charts, stating his belief that the project failed to meet the eight criteria required for rezoning, and new ones citing improper curb cuts on Willow Road and the challenge of a 70-foot truck reaching the Willow-Pfingsten intersection 110 feet away.

Most all of the 30 callers praised the Plan Commission's service and indulgence. Bucklin returned the favor.

"I want to thank the public for unprecedented comments, the amount of comments, the detail of your research, the passion. I know that I can't speak for the other plan commissioners, but I can tell you I'm very impressed with the work that's been done," said Bucklin, who noted the "400-plus" letters and emails the commission had received on top of the phone and Zoom calls.

"There were many comments about transparency during some of the comments, and this is what transparency is," he said. "We've spent a lot of time listening and hearing and reading what exactly the residents of this area are looking for. We appreciate your input. We appreciate the fact that you spent time and many hours to do this. We also want to be fair with our (next) meeting."

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