Homeless housing plan near Lake Zurich delayed by appeal
Plans to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in a building near Lake Zurich are on hold after a residents' group appealed the decision by a Lake County agency to grant an occupancy permit.
Residents for an Engaged Community, a group that includes members from Lake Zurich and Hawthorn Woods, objected to the permit that would allow the homeless agency PADS Lake County to use Midlothian Manor. The 14-unit building, in an unincorporated area at Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane, is owned by the Lake County Housing Authority.
Housing authority officials say only an administrative process through Lake County's department of planning, building and development was necessary for the permit to allow the PADS clients to live in the now-vacant former senior facility. The occupancy permit was approved Tuesday.
But an administrative appeal filed Thursday by the residents group means no one may move into Midlothian Manor before a public hearing expected in six to eight weeks, according to the county. The Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals will decide at the hearing if it was proper for the occupancy permit to be issued under a "government use" category, as requested by the housing authority.
While Residents for an Engaged Community attorney Daniel Shapiro were satisfied they got the public hearing, housing authority Executive Director and CEO David Northern questioned the resistance to apartments for the chronically homeless with mental illness in the Lake Zurich area.
"These are people, just like you and I," Northern said Friday. "They are our neighbors, our family members, the veterans who serve our country. Without adequate support from family or friends, these individuals often wind up homeless because they can't keep their jobs or manage the health care system on their own."
Officials at PADS want to move their Safe Haven program from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago to Midlothian Manor, near Lake Zurich's north side.
PADS Executive Director Joel Williams said the agency no longer has a lease at the Lovell campus, but federal officials have allowed Safe Haven to remain there on short-term arrangements since Sept. 30.
Separately, Residents for an Engaged Community filed a lawsuit against the housing authority and PADS in Lake County court this week challenging the administrative permitting process used for Midlothian Manor.
In part, the group claims in court documents Midlothian Manor is in a residential zoning classification in an unincorporated area that requires a conditional use permit for the homeless proposal. Such permits go through a standard approval process that includes discussion by elected officials and typically ends with a public vote by the Lake County Board.
Williams said he did not expect the residents objecting to Midlothian Manor plan would contest the occupancy permit and file the lawsuit. He said PADS and the housing authority have made good-faith efforts to listen to resident concerns, such as the possibility of additional crime and reduced property values from the project.
"I'm surprised and disappointed how it has gotten to this point, where they (residents) have gone through other channels," Williams said.