Heritage Woods Rejected by Village Board, Plan Commission

Heritage Woods Rejected by Village Board, Plan Commission

Following months of hearings and a well- organized neighborhood opposition to the project, Village Trustees and the Plan Commission both unanimously voted down the proposed Heritage Woods senior assisted living facility last month. Members of the Plan Commission had expressed reservations about the project when it was originally unveiled in December, and expressed disappointment that it was returned with very few changes over the summer. Village Trustees placed the matter on the “consent agenda” (for routine items) in mid-September and quickly voted it down with no comment.

Developers had hoped to gain approval for a 105 unit (25% of which would be classified as affordable), 97,000 square foot residential development on the corner of Shermer and Techny Roads. The project would have combined four lots into one lot and changed the Zoning Code classification from single family residential to senior/special residential. Additional variations would have required special permits to allow a reduction in the required lot area per dwelling unit, and to allow the project to exceed the floor area ratio and height requirements. The facility was proposed to serve residents in their 80s and 90s, and be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Throughout the process, neighbors voiced their objections, citing a decline in their property values, fears the project would change the character of their neighborhood, an increase in traffic, in particular worries about student drivers entering and leaving Glenbrook North High School.

Stating that he felt the location was appropriate for “a small community based, assisted living center,” and that there is a great need for affordable housing, Plan Commission member Steven Elisco suggested that the project should be at least half the size. He also objected to the building height being measured by commercial standards. Reducing the size would eliminate the need for all of the relief requested, he pointed out. “There’s a small margin for adding beds and affordable housing,” he stated, “but it’s not worth having an improper building on this site.”

Disagreeing with the developer that the site could be considered “transitional,” Plan Commissioner Jeff Sandler said the project is not consistent with the land uses on three sides, citing very few other 3 story structures in the area, and even those were set against the railroad tracks and set further back. He also commented “I think the site is still appropriately residential and this (project) is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.” He agreed with fellow commissioners that height and density and the amount of zoning relief requested as reasons to oppose it. “The project is mismatched for this site and out of proportion,” he stated.

Expressing disappointment that the developers did not make many substantive changes to their original proposal, Commissioner Norm Jacobs agreed with the other commissioners, stating “You can’t possibly expect a positive vote with none of the input from the homeowners considered.” Commission Chair Marcia Franklin agreed, suggesting that while it’s unrealistic to assume things will never change and that Northbrook needs more affordable senior assisted living, the site was inappropriate.

Earlier in the summer the Architectural Control Commission also reviewed the application. Agreeing that the developer satisfied some of their requests, they also found the overall site design too dense and too tall.

Developer Steven Baron, Barron Development, expressed disappointment in the vote. “It’s unfortunate that the neighbors’ exaggerated concerns about ‘safety and traffic’ were given so much more weight than the community’s interest in improving its much-needed affordable assisted living units. We are confident that we’ll find a suitable site in a neighboring community.”

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