Judge sides with archdiocese, finds Libertyville's denials of home plan unreasonable
Decisions made by Libertyville officials denying a proposed residential development west of Butterfield Road and south of the Pine Meadow Golf Club were "unreasonable and arbitrary" a Lake County judge ruled Friday.
Judge Michael J. Fusz in a 35-page opinion also found the proposed plan for the 148-home Oak Trails subdivision was a reasonable use of the property and that the village relied on limited information regarding perceived traffic safety, among other observations.
The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit lodged by the Archdiocese of Chicago in June 2017, three months after the village board denied four of five zoning and other requests regarding the proposed 40-acre development.
Roanoke Group LLC had a contract to buy the long-vacant land from the archdiocese for $15 million contingent on village approvals for the subdivision. It is the northern portion of 97 acres in Libertyville owned by the archdiocese and is part of the St. Mary of the Lake seminary. The rest of the seminary holdings are in Mundelein.
"The Archdiocese has proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that the village's decision was arbitrary and unreasonable and bears no substantial relation to the public health, safety or welfare," Fusz wrote.
He ordered the development plan be implemented and include the installation of a traffic signal at the Lake Street/Butterfield Road/Pine Meadows entrance.
Developers were pleased but village officials will be meeting in closed session to determine whether to appeal.
Libertyville has spent about $145,000 in its defense during the detailed proceeding that pitted what the archdiocese saw as its right to use and develop its property against what the village saw as its power to ensure the health, safety and welfare of residents through zoning and land use regulations.
"The court's ruling confirms that this project should have been approved," Roanoke managing partner Peter Kyte said in a statement. "It is unfortunate the litigation was the only avenue available for the property owner to protect its land use rights."
Mayor Terry Weppler said he was disappointed and didn't agree with the decision. He added that he was told the lawsuit was filed as a placekeeper in advance of further discussion but the archdiocese refused to discuss it with him or others affected by the development.
Anne Maselli, director of communications and marketing for the archdiocese, thanked the court for its thoughtful and detailed analysis and said the "extensive" ruling was being reviewed.
"The Archdiocese of Chicago has been working with the Village of Libertyville for nearly 10 years to prepare this property for sale and redevelopment," she said in a statement. "We look forward to developing the underutilized property in a manner consistent with the visions of the village, as reflected in its comprehensive plan, the surrounding community and the Archdiocese."