Candidates support appeal of court decision against Libertyville

The four candidates running for Libertyville village board agree a judge's ruling Friday in favor of the Archdiocese of Chicago involving property it owns west of Butterfield Road near Lake Street should be appealed.

And because three are incumbents, there appears to be a solid base to proceed, although the potential cost could be a factor. The village board is expected to discuss its next step Tuesday in a closed session.

In a 35-page opinion, Judge Michael J. Fusz said Libertyville's denial in March 2017 of a proposed 148-house subdivision known as Oak Trails was arbitrary and unreasonable. The Archdiocese had a contract to sell the property to a developer for $15 million contingent on village approvals.

The issue galvanized neighbors in opposition. Hundreds attended public hearings and the village board meeting where the final decisions were made. Mayor Terry Weppler said the village has spent $145,000 in its defense.

In a Daily Herald candidate interview the day before the decision was rendered in Lake County circuit court, incumbents Scott Adams, Pete Garrity and Donna Johnson and newcomer Jeanine Chyna said the village should appeal if it lost.

Adams, president and CEO of the GLMV Chamber of Commerce, is seeking a second 4-year term. He was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2014 and elected in 2015. Garrity, a retired corporate executive, was the top vote-getter in 2015 among four write-in candidates and also is seeking a second term. Johnson, a retired corporate attorney, has been a trustee since 2007. Chyna, a former marketing and sales professional, in her first run for the village board said she wants to offer voters a fresh perspective.

Candidate responses are in the order they were asked.

• Garrity said: "We have defended our position and I am very comfortable with our rejection of the development as proposed." He said costs going forward must be considered but expected the village would appeal.

"Personally and I believe the residents of the village - we're not ready to let this thing go as proposed and I believe it's our job to do everything we can to make this thing right," he said.

• Johnson also supported an appeal.

"If there's grounds for appeal and we can write a compelling brief, I think that the likelihood of us getting a more impartial, fair decision with a panel of three is greater," she said.

"And so, if we can afford to do it as Pete suggested, that's what I would recommend because I think long-range, in terms of the financial impact on the community, if we don't consider it in pursuing, it will be a lot more expensive than the legal bill we're going to have," Johnson said.

• Adams said density and safety are issues.

"We need to fight it. It's the right thing for us to do for our residents. We had a resounding amount of residents who came forward and were opposed to this for a lot of safety reasons," he said

He added that even if the property were to be annexed to Mundelein, local schools still would have to absorb the students.

• Chyna in her candidate questionnaire described the lawsuit as "an ongoing drain of resources" and in a recent Facebook post said the money could have been better spent "serving residents."

However, in the interview, she said she also favors an appeal.

"I would have to say we'd have to fight it. People just don't want to see another development," she said.

Many residents question how the situation came to be, she said, noting past decisions are why she is running.

"Already, people are talking about leaving the state, leaving Libertyville. They can't wait to get out of here, and it really hurts me to hear this because this is my hometown now and I want to stay where my kids are," she said.

Upper from left, Scott Adams, Jeanine Chyna and lower from left, Peter Garrity and Donna Johnson are candidates for Libertyville village board in the 2019 election.
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