Glencoe, News

After “emotional” 6-hour meeting, zoning commissioners give negative opinion on multi-family Glencoe project

The communication considered by the Village of Glencoe related to a zoning request at 538 Green Bay Road is voluminous.

Hours of public testimony and dozens of letters from experts and residents, hundreds of pages of resource material, and who knows how many behind-the-scenes conversations. 

But it was the absent communication that turned into the primary influencer for the Zoning Commission. 

The zoning commissioners made particular note of the lack of communicative efforts from applicant Steve McGuire in unanimously voting on Monday, Sept. 13, to pass a negative recommendation to the Glencoe Village Board.

“We have not heard from the developer,” commissioner David Friedman said toward the end of the six-hour meeting. “He is putting professionals between him and us. It is a discouraging thing. And no interaction with the community is abhorrent.

“Then we listened to the neighbors, and I have a hard time discounting the intensity of the neighbors.” 

In the wake of five hours of professional and public commentary and questioning, Friedman led off the commissioners’ concluding thoughts before a motion was called.

His five counterparts — with commissioner John Satter recusing himself — used his words as jumping-off points to give their summaries.

“Did you ask the community? I am troubled by the fact that if that happened, it was not made clear tonight,” Commission Chairman Scott Novack said. “It definitely did not happen here. In the future, it is critical. Everyone’s trying to be a good neighbor. Without talking to the neighbors, boy, it’s hard.”

The proposed condo building shown with neighboring properties. | Village of Glencoe document

The zoning case got its first look from local officials earlier this year. As reported by The Record, the Village Board instructed its Zoning Commission to hold a public hearing for McGuire’s request to rezone the three-parcel property at 538 Green Bay Road from a single-family district (R-C) to multi-family (R-D). 

McGuire teamed with developers and architects to propose a six-unit development to replace the currently standing home on the 26,397-square-foot lot. The proposed building, as explained on Monday, is about 20,000 total square feet with 7,741 square feet of lot coverage. 

Each unit would cover between 1,600 to 2,400 square feet, according to village documents,  and cost between $800,000 and $1 million, according to testimony from the Sept. 13 hearing. 

The reaction of the lot’s neighbors was swift, persistent and passionate.

Prior to a scheduled public hearing in July, the Village of Glencoe received more than 30 letters opposing the development, as The Record reported. The hearing was postponed until Monday, Sept. 13.

The hearing began around 6:45 p.m. Monday and ended just shy of midnight. It began with representatives of McGuire pleading their case to the commission. 

Attorney Chris Canning introduced the project before giving way to a series of professionals, including consultants and architects, to detail the development and its potential impact on the community.

“We believe such a building would be in in character with developments on the west side of Green Bay Road,” Canning said. “It is designed to be conforming. … For the village’s goal of increasing the supply of multi-family homes to be attained, this may be the last shot.”

The subject property is outlined amid a zoning map showing single-family (R-C, orange) and multi-family (R-D) districts.

Scott Freras of the Lakota Group explained how the development fits in with the neighborhood and aligns with Village of Glencoe planning. 

As early as 2004, the village expressed a desire for a variety of housing options “for all residents of age and lifestyles” and pointed to the Green Bay Road corridor — because of its proximity to downtown Glencoe — as a strong location for such development. Those thoughts are backed up by Glencoe’s downtown plan from 2016, Freras showed. 

Freras and company went on to review the proposal’s design and site plan, addressing concerns about appearance as well as stormwater management.

Consultant Peter Cummins — a former village manager for Glencoe (1991-1995) and current real-estate broker — spoke on precedent in the area, including other multi-unit developments along Green Bay Road, one of which (450 Green Bay Road) he developed. 

While 538 Green Bay Road is zone R-C (single-family) it abuts R-D (multi-family) zoning to the east, where a strip of R-D zoning runs along Green Bay Road.

A number of less-modern, multi-unit developments — including at 560, 590 and 430 Green Bay Road — are nearby in Glencoe. 

Cummins also reviewed the limited development options — such as building a 7,000-square-foot single-family home — available to McGuire, the property owner of 538 Green Bay Road.

Commissioners followed with questions to the proposal team before hearing from community members via letters and direct testimony. 

The board packet contained 90 pages of resident letters, including opposition from all four direct neighbors to 538 Green Bay Road and all 15 sharing a block with the lot. According to the documents 78 neighbors formally opposed the development. 

The crux of neighbors’ arguments is a building of that size and nature does not fit in with the neighborhood and would negatively affect the quality of life for neighbors. 

Many neighbors also expressed frustration that the applicant, Steve McGuire, did not communicate with them about the project and how it may impact the neighborhood.

“I am so tired of hearing about the Green Bay Corridor. We don’t live in a corridor. We live in a home,” said Jane Artabasy, who lives with her husband, Joe, at 550 Hawthorn adjacent to the lot in question. “ … I’m not saying the building as a concept isn’t attractive. … It doesn’t belong here, it doesn’t belong in this space.”

While commissioners were not sold on any negative impacts to traffic, noise or stormwater, all six of them said they were influenced by the volume of neighbor complaints and the emotional nature of those complaints. 

“I have been on this commission for five years and something we talk about is the importance of neighbors’ opinions and respecting the views of neighbors,” Commissioner Sara Elsasser said. 

The negative recommendation will inform any future decision by the Glencoe Village Board, assuming the applicant continues the zoning request.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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