Debate on Dimucci deal delayed because experts not present

Procedural error means shopping center plan stays on hold for now

Updated 6/26/2012 12:20 PM

An apparent miscommunication about procedure prompted the Lake County regional planning commission on Monday to delay a much-anticipated debate over a controversial shopping center plan.

The postponement means the fate of the Dimucci family's vacant property on the southeast corner of Rand and Old McHenry roads will remain unclear for at least a week or two. A new meeting date wasn't set, but officials are aiming for early July.

With about 100 people in the audience at the Concorde Banquets center, the commission members voted to delay their discussion because attorneys, land planners and other consultants working for the villages that could be affected by the proposal weren't invited to the session, while representatives for the Dimuccis were present.

Representatives from those villages -- particularly North Barrington and Hawthorn Woods -- had been told at a public discussion of the plan last week that Monday's session was strictly for the commission members to debate, and that public input would not be needed.

But when the panel convened Monday, some members had questions for county planners, the Dimuccis' representatives and the villages' consultants.

Loraine Ray was among the commissioners who realized they would be unable to get those questions answered by all sides, and she asked the discussion be postponed.

"If I'm asking a question, it means that I need to hear both sides on it," Ray said. "It's a matter of fairness."

Commissioner Marie C. Lyons agreed.

"I don't have a lot of (questions), but I would like to have them answered," Lyons said.

After the commission members voted, the meeting ended -- 40 minutes after its 5 p.m. start.

The postponement was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience, which largely consisted of people opposed to the Dimuccis' request to have the land rezoned to allow an 800,000-square-foot shopping center.

Some critics have complained about an impact on traffic. Others have said the plan would violate development guidelines adopted in 1999 by Hawthorn Woods and North Barrington officials.

The request to postpone initially met with resistance from Lake County Planning Director Eric Waggoner, who's been leading the push for the project.

"It's not our obligation to make sure they're here," Waggoner said of the village's consultants.

But after the meeting ended, Waggoner called Ray's concern valid.

If commissioners feel they must ask questions to make a fully informed decision, "that's perfectly fine," Waggoner said. "We (will) come back again. That's what we get paid for."

The regional planning commission's eventual decision won't be the final word on the plan.

The group merely advises the county board on land development issues. When the commission is done with the proposal, it will go to the county's zoning board of appeals, a planning committee and then the full board.

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