Vernon Hills approves plan for 80 apartments on Town Center site

Vernon Hills officials have approved an 80-unit apartment building at routes 45 and 21, after considerable give and take with the site's neighbors.The six-story Commons II to be developed by the Taxman Corp., of Skokie, will be built on the last piece of...

Vernon Hills approves plan for 80 apartments on Town Center site

Vernon Hills officials have approved an 80-unit apartment building at routes 45 and 21, after considerable give and take with the site's neighbors.

The six-story Commons II to be developed by the Taxman Corp., of Skokie, will be built on the last piece of vacant property in the Vernon Hills Town Center, a southern gateway 14 years in the making that includes restaurants, shops and residences.

"The village is definitely excited to finish the last unbuilt piece," Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey said.

A 6-0 vote Tuesday gave zoning and other approvals and allows the project to proceed. Taxman also is expected to seek a substantial village incentive, but a specific request has not been formally considered.

The decision marked the end of lengthy talks with neighbors in which seven alternative plans for parking and access were considered. Commons II is part of a larger development that originally called for a maximum of 66 apartments in the building.

"Yes, this was a difficult one. When you work together, things do work out," said Trustee Mike Marquardt.

Residents in a neighboring building had sparred with Taxman representatives in sometimes heated exchanges regarding the number, type and location of parking spaces and related issues, such as closing Byrne Boulevard.

At one point during a public meeting Jan. 10, an exasperated company chief Seymour 'Sy' Taxman said the market dictated the increase in units and offered to end the debate.

"There's a certain critical mass necessary to make things work," he said. "If you're going to tell me to go back to 66 (units) or nothing, it's nothing."

The board subsequently in a series of 4-3 votes directed the necessary ordinances be drafted for future action. Discussion among the parties resulted in acceptable compromises, including adding 34 diagonal parking spaces on both sides of Byrne Boulevard and keeping a shared driveway as access to the lower garages in both buildings.

"This seemed like a plan everybody could get on board with," Trustee Thom Koch -- who voted against the plan in January -- said before Tuesday's vote.

The original plan with developer Opus North Corp., called for twin 66-unit buildings. However, only one was built and the property remained vacant for several years. Taxman, which has been involved with the Town Center since its inception, bought the land with the intent of finishing the project.

"This obviously was a hot-button issue for all of us in our building," Mike Kordecki said on behalf of the neighboring residents. "I think they (Taxman) did a nice job at the end of the day."

In 2003, the village designated the area as the Town Center tax increment financing district. In that set up, the increased property taxes generated by development are placed into a special fund to pay for roads, utilities, land acquisition and other improvements within the TIF district.

Because the village doesn't levy a property tax, it was required to transfer $1 million to the TIF from general funds and a $670,000 loan is outstanding.

The TIF will be in a deficit situation the next few years with the maximum amount to be generated in coming years estimated at $1.8 million, said Finance Director Nikki Larson.

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