Green Acres Proposal Meets Resistance from Trustees

Green Acres Proposal Meets Resistance from Trustees

Preliminary development plans for the former Green Acres Country Club received a strong negative reaction from the Village Board of Trustees at a recent meeting. The proposed mixed-use project, which would include 800 residential units ranging from apartments to single-family homes along with commercial and recreational spaces, was criticized for its density, its impact on local schools and public services, and a variety of other issues.

A particular challenge for development is the property’s current designation as open space on the Future Land Use Map in the Village’s comprehensive plan. Even more significant is the fact the property is currently zoned OS, Open Space, which limits what can be developed on the property to recreational uses without a rezoning. All the Trustees noted that the proposal from property owner GA Northbrook, for-sale residential developer Taylor Morrison and rental developer Lincoln Property Company, was too great a departure from the existing character of the property to justify modification of the designation. In the words of Trustee Johannah Hebl, “There’s got to be a compelling reason for us to change the zoning and we don’t have it here.”

The conceptual plan for the development, named “Terra Verde,” envisioned 800 dwelling units on the 127-acre property, comprised of a mix of 103 single family homes, 72 duplexes, 181 townhomes, and a three-story apartment building with 444 units. The developers asserted that 45 acres, including water detention areas, parks and walking trails, would qualify as open space, and that 15 of those acres would be dedicated to the Park District along with an existing building. The current main clubhouse would be demolished to make way for a six-acre commercial area to serve the needs of residents, although specific businesses were not identified. Primary access to the development would be from Dundee, with the addition of a traffic light at the main entrance, while access via Lee Road would only be used for emergency vehicles.

Trustees expressed disappointment over the density of the proposal, both for the loss of open space and the demands that adding so many new residents would place on schools, police and fire services. Trustee Muriel Collison noted that Elementary District 28, which includes the property, is already anticipating an influx of new students from previously approved developments at Northbrook Court, Deerbrook Shopping Center, and the just-opened Elaine Apartments on Skokie Boulevard. Trustees Robert Israel and Jason Han each stated their opposition to changing the Open Space zoning designation, with Israel arguing that detention ponds cannot be considered open space. Trustees also noted the impact on neighbors whose backyard view would change from a golf course to multiple close-packed homes.

Comments from the Board also stressed their expectation that affordable housing would be included in any planned development. Trustee Kathryn Ciesla stated that the Plan Commission has been directed to draft an affordable housing policy similar to Highland Park’s, and that there will not be an option to pay a fee in lieu of construction.

President Sandy Frum summarized the discussion by urging the developers to reexamine their approach. She suggested that housing density should average no greater than R-4 across the property, and that open space should be a more important component of reducing density than lot size. “I want to keep this open space as much as possible,” she said. “…and I’m looking for open space for the community, not just for this development.”