Glenview Plan Commission votes against motion to rezone Hart Estate

After five Glenview Plan Commission meetings dating to February on the topic, opponents of a proposed shopping center at the former Hart Estate got the result they sought.

So far.

By a 3-2 vote, on Tuesday the commission denied a motion to rezone the 8.37-acre property at the southwest corner of Willow and Pfingsten roads to B1 business and R4 residential from its current status as R1 residential.

The Chicago-based property owner, GW Properties, seeks to construct four commercial buildings with related parking and infrastructure, the Willow Crossing Shopping Center anchored by a 35,000-square foot Amazon Fresh grocery store.

The southern 2 acres, representing the R4 zoning, would be dedicated chiefly to a 43,500-square foot water detention space.

The proposal will go to the Glenview board of trustees with a negative recommendation, tentatively scheduled to be heard at the board's May 18 meeting.

"To be honest keeping it residential is my preference. I'm a pro-developer. I've approved a lot of projects in this community," Plan Commission Chair Steve Bucklin said while praising the exhaustively researched presentation of attorney Hal Francke of Meltzer Purtill & Stelle, GW Properties' land use counsel and Tuesday's featured speaker.

"However, it did not convince me that our community, that is the community that I live in, needs this shopping center. I don't see the value in it, I don't see where the people most close are going to benefit from this development," Bucklin said after the vote.

"We've had five meetings and 15 to 20 hours and no one has come forward and said they want this. That means something to me as well."

The burden of having the property rezoned fell upon the applicant, based on the project passing the eight-pronged "LaSalle Standards" evaluation criteria. These include factors such as how property values may be diminished by the current zoning, the gain to the public compared to hardship on the property owner, community need for the proposal, and suitability for it.

Kicking off his commentary, Francke said the presentation previously delivered by the neighbors opposed to the project, who had been echoed by 60 callers in two nights of public hearings, was among the best he'd seen in more than 40 years of practice.

"Unfortunately, for the reasons I'm about to share with you I would respectfully suggest that you should not allow much of what you heard influence the decisions you're required by law to make on those applications," he said.

Citing related court cases in Skokie and Lisle as well as various sections of Glenview municipal code, Franke reminded the Plan Commission they were bound to "consider evidence which is based in fact."

Over the course of his 1-hour, 40-minute address he produced examples where he believed neighbors had provided speculation and opinion as opposed to facts.

He also stated his case that GW Properties met the criteria for each of the eight LaSalle Standards.

Pertaining to the second requirement, for example, the extent property values may be diminished by zoning restrictions, Francke recalled the prior testimony of real estate appraiser Michael MaRous.

MaRous, Francke said, "concluded that the value of the property as currently zoned stands at between $1.8 and $2.1 million, or less than half of what GW Properties paid for the property ($5.75 million), thinking it was zoned for commercial use."

Commissioners had the opportunity to question GW Properties principal Mitch Goltz, focusing mainly on truck traffic and noise mitigation, before providing their own thoughts on how the proposal met the LaSalle Standards.

Proponents of the motion, commissioners Michael Burton and Anne Junia, believed the project met those standards. They felt there was little benefit to the public if the property remained R1, and other intersections nearby and villagewide were commercially based.

Junia believed low commercial vacancies in the area indicated stores were in demand and said a Willow-Pfingsten intersection deemed unsafe was not right for residential development.

Commissioners Jerry Ciolek, Brian Duff and Tom Fallon thought otherwise. They stated issues of diminished residential property values, suitability of the project given its density, health and safety concerns with increased truck traffic, and questioned whether a commercial development was needed.

Noting the standard of community need, Duff noted what Bucklin would soon repeat.

"How many residents and how many letters have we had?" Duff said. "Maybe there was one (in support)? That's real data, that's not some not-in-my-backyard thing. We've had people from neighboring suburbs, from different areas of the village. Nobody wants this."

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