Grayslake, Lake County in talks to drop $20 million 'obstacle' to redevelopment
The last burst of activity at the former Lake County Fairgrounds at routes 120 and 45 in Grayslake involved the demolition of the old buildings two years ago to make the site more attractive for development.
But that has been about it since the Lake County Fair Association sold its home of 53 years and hosted the last annual fair on the site in 2008.
One drawback for potential reinvestment, village officials say, is an outdated agreement with Lake County requiring a $20 million contribution toward roadwork.
However, that could soon change. Talks are ongoing to terminate the pact created to offset the impact on surrounding roads in anticipation of a large retail development that never materialized and likely won't be sought again.
"The village is working with Lake County to remove the extraordinary redevelopment fees being imposed on the property, which have been an obstacle for redevelopment," Assistant Village Manager Brett Kryska said.
Market studies and developer feedback shows a mix of homes, retail and offices are current market possibilities that could work there, Kryska said.
"The village is talking to different potential developers about the site but nothing is ready for (village) board consideration," he added.
Before the last fair was held, the village gave developers the go-ahead to proceed with "The Fairgrounds of Grayslake," which at 807,000 square feet of retail space would have been the largest nonresidential development in town.
County officials, expecting a significant impact on traffic from a large retail development, identified a list of road projects that would need to be completed.
The intent was the village would collect the money from the developer as a condition of approval.
But the project evaporated, and since then many of the road improvements identified in 2005, such as widening Route 45 from Route 120 to Center Street, have been completed, said Shane Schneider, director of the Lake County Division of Transportation.
"The intent of the agreement is no longer viable," he said.
Schneider discussed the agreement Wednesday in a report to the Lake County Board's public works, planning and transportation committee, saying talks with Grayslake are ongoing.
"Developers are looking at this property, and when they do a title search, this agreement shows up as a lien," he said.
Since a large outdoor mall is no longer planned or expected, and the majority of roadwork has been completed, the village and county are considering terminating the agreement. Both parties would have to approve any changes.
"I think it will be really good for the development of the entire area," county board Chairwoman Sandy Hart said.
With the agreement negated, general development could proceed on the former fairgrounds and approvals for any needed roadwork would be accomplished through typical permitting requirements, according to LCDOT.
"We don't think, based on what we know about this site, any more than that is justified," Schneider said.