County wants $6,000 from Lake Zurich-area homeless opponents
Hoping to move along a court case involving a dispute over the fate of the old Midlothian Manor property in Ela Township, a unit of Lake County government has paid an outstanding $6,000 cost for a public hearing transcript and is looking to residents who opposed the project for reimbursement.
Whether the county's zoning board of appeals or members of the Lake Zurich-area Residents for an Engaged Community should be responsible for the fee will be up to a small-claims court judge to decide. A hearing in Lake County circuit court is set for Tuesday, Feb. 9.
"If we thought we had to pay, we would pay," said attorney Daniel Shapiro, who represents Residents for an Engaged Community.
Lake County Housing Authority officials went to court July 8 over a decision by the zoning board of appeals denying the agency's proposal to place chronically homeless residents with mental illness in the vacant 14-unit facility. The May 2015 hearing occurred at the demand of the residents who live near Midlothian Manor and objected to the proposal.
A court reporter hired by Lake County was assigned to the hearing and compiled the voluminous transcript. Zoning board of appeals attorney Charles Smith said the transcript must be entered into the record for the housing authority's lawsuit to help a judge decide the case.
But the housing authority's 7-month-old attempt to overturn the decision stalled last fall due to the dispute between the residents and the zoning board of appeals over the court reporter's $6,000 transcript fee. The housing authority named the residents' group and zoning board of appeals in its complaint.
Smith briefed zoning board of appeals members about the Midlothian Manor litigation during a closed-door session Thursday at the Lake County government complex in Libertyville. Afterward, Smith said the county last month decided to pay the $6,000 for the transcripts and seek reimbursement from the residents to get the case moving.
"It's our obligation as the administrative body to file the record with the court for review," he said. "Well, the record is the transcript. In the application, the people who are objecting promised to pay the costs of the transcript."
Smith said the residents would have been required to pay for the transcript even if the housing authority had not taken the case to court. He said the requirements are made known to all applicants for zoning board of appeals hearings.
Midlothian Manor, at Oakwood Road and Lakewood Lane in unincorporated Ela Township, had been used for senior housing until closing in 2010.
Lake County Housing Authority Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer David Northern said he's pleased the zoning board of appeals paid the transcript fee to get his agency's court case moving again.
"It has been difficult to see the delay this technical disagreement between (zoning board) and the citizens has caused," Northern said Thursday, "and how it has prevented us from fulfilling our mission to provide housing to those in need in our community. It's so important for us to get the answers related to the asset that we've owned since 2001, that has been sitting there vacant instead of being used for a stable residence for our most vulnerable citizens."