Culture, Environment, Government, Legal, Wildlife

Butterfield: Where To, Now?

A group of 3 year-olds graze on the open space at 901 Butterfield Highway.

Driving down Butterfield last week we spied a herd of deer grazing in the snowy, white expanse of a field cleared in 2016. Among them were at least 4 bucks, with 3-point antlers. Around 2-1/2 years old. They would have been newly born in the spring before the Archdiocese of Chicago cut down 33 acres of sheltering trees on this scenic, colorful piece of woodlot on the west side of Libertyville.

The once colorful woodlot was viewed by more than 20,000 motorists every day.

The deer are a conundrum caught in a quandary. They have multiplied to 28 in number, primarily due to the removal of wooded habitat that housed their arch enemy, the coyote. Left unchecked, they face an uncertain future, either from lack of food, or an unlucky collision with an auto speeding along Butterfield Road. They must wonder, ‘What’s happening here? Where will we live next?’

We might ask the same question ourselves.

Cluster Housing: 148 homes planned for construction on 15.2 acres of land.

Back in August 2016, the Village announced an open meeting of the Plan Commission to present a housing development proposal to occupy a 40-acre lot owned by the Archdiocese of Chicago. The developer, it is now learned, had bid $15 million to buy the land for the purpose of installing 148 ‘cluster homes’ on the lot, plus two detention ponds and roads. 7 acres of woods would offer a treed park for walks.

The open meeting attracted over 100 residents who voiced their concerns and asked pointed questions that set the commission, and the developer, back on their heels. The meeting adjourned with a promise of refinements, and for a follow up, which was scheduled in January, 2017.

An astounding disregard for optics, and the local parish.

The machines made fast work of the Church’s order.

Then, in November, just before Thanksgiving, with an astounding disregard for optics, and an unconscionable dismissal of its local parish, the Church decided to spring into action. After receiving approval from the Village, it cut down 33 acres of mature trees which grew on the development site. The sheer sight of the woods coming down, so swiftly, leaving a naked field behind, shocked many in Lake County. More than 20,000 drivers passed the scenic woods every day.

By January, the development had surfaced all sorts of debate and before long, it became clear that the residents were pushing back. Their concerns ranged from traffic to congestion, from design to pollution. Ripping out the woods was the final straw. A summary of 19 specific concerns were circulated, and became talking points for review.

Looking north on Butterfield Highway, homeowners will enter and exit just left of the power line pole.

The Village Board became closely aware of the situation, and received a final proposal from the Plan Commission to halt the development. In a special March 2017 meeting, held at the high school auditorium, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously against the development as proposed. The pivotal issue was traffic congestion and safety.

Looking south on Butterfield, the commuters’ treks just begin.

It could have ended there, but a dose of reality was dispensed. Libertyville had just killed the Church’s $15 million dollar deal, and the Archdiocese, reputedly in search of cash, was miffed.

In June of 2017, the Catholic Bishop of Chicago filed a suit against the Village for its “capricious, arbitrary decision” which denied the Church its constitutional rights to sell the land. And so, it ended up in court.

The trial commenced in November 2018, and concluded December 7. The judge was buried under boxes of memoranda, reports and legal papers along with 10 days of procedural testimony. The sole subject: traffic safety.   Nevertheless, he offered a decision perhaps as early of January 31, 2019.

A portion of the 28 white tail deer that grazed on January 20, 2019. Not a coyote in sight.

We wait. But back to the deer. Where do they go? Ironically, their numbers swelled because the coyotes lost their homes in the woods. But what now?

As an FYI, the Lake County Forest Preserve is closed at night until March because they are thinning out the deer population. In their books, 15-30 deer can safely occupy a square mile (640 acres) of open land. Yet here we have 28 deer grazing on the corner of the 33-acre open patch. Maybe they hale from St.Mary’s and Pine Meadow golf course. Interestingly, on the Forest Preserve website I picked up their regrets about development and how it affects Lake County’s natural resources:

“Natural processes are disrupted. No harm was meant, but 150 years of settlement has greatly changed local habitat. The surface may look okay, but many habitats are not healthy. The gradual impact of people settling in this area has been astounding:

  • Prairies were plowed
  • Wetlands were tiled and drained for agriculture
  • Wildfires were suppressed
  • Predators and pollinators were wiped out
  • Invasive species were introduced and their populations exploded
  • Habitats have become islands in a sea of development
  • Streams are muddied
  • Prairies, woodlands and wetlands shrink smaller and smaller”

Three bucks in a quandary: where to now?

It’s all sobering to think about.  We wait for the judge to announce his decision.

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Culture, Environment, Government, Legal, Politics

Butterfield: A Look Back

Dear Reader: The following is primarily of interest to Libertyville residents. The 19 points below are a review of the concerns about a housing development on Butterfield Road in Libertyville, proposed in August 2016. A final court decision is due shortly.

For my many readers who may not live here, if you are interested in the potential impacts of housing development in your neck of the woods, read on! These were originally posted March 24, 2017.

“The proposed Planned Development at 901 Butterfield is not in keeping with Libertyville tradition, standards, or our treasured quality of life. Here’s why:

Density
1. While R6 zoning may allow as much as 232 dwellings on 40 acres, the developer’s proposal of 148 is not a salve. Indeed, those 148 homes are built on 15.2 acres, or approximately 9.7 dwellings per acre. This is an urban solution in the midst of spacious, open R3, R4, and R5 subdivisions.

Financials
2. The developer’s proposed sell prices for the homes are virtually unobtainable. The attached neighborhoods’ single family dwellings, have median sell prices of $550,000, vs. the $750,000 proposed for the tightly packaged single-family dwellings. The total property assessment of $109,000,000 is most likely unachievable. The more likely assessment will be $76,000,000, affecting tax revenues significantly.
3. Surrounding neighborhood values will decrease as a direct result of the removal of open space. The additional traffic and registration pressure on Butterfield School will also be a negative to existing property values.

Schools
4. An additional 104 students at Butterfield will require 3-5 additional classroom equivalents. Using the developer’s Fiscal Impact Study model, District 70 will be underwater financially when property assessments are realized at only $76,000,000, requiring incremental tax dollars.
5. School bus transit will be required for all students in the development, further stalling any LCDOT decision to add a signal at the development’s entrance.

Traffic
6. There will be an additional 300 cars in the immediate vicinity. Traffic on Lake Street will increase from 3,800 car trips per day to 5,000.
7. Commuters exiting the development during rush hour may incur accidents turning left, northbound, onto Butterfield in order to reach the Metra Station.
8. Commuters exiting the development during rush hour turning right, southbound, will use Ridgewood Lane as a cut through passage to the Metra Station, disturbing residents on Hillcrest, Sedgwick, Blackthorn and Paradise.
9. Left turn lineups on southbound Butterfield at Park Ave (176) will increase, causing illegal stacking of cars.
10. Pedestrian traffic across Butterfield is in severe jeopardy regardless of time of day, every day, especially drawn to the Butterfield School campus. 23,000 cars per day, average car speed: 47mph. There are estimated 150 school-aged children in the proposed development.

Butler Lake Pollution
11. Private contractor snow removal in a high-density subdivision leads to expedient salting practices. Chlorides are permanent, non-removable threat.
12. Butler Lake pollution is a real risk from indiscriminant use of chlorides which will be washed away by 20,000,000 gallons of storm water run off from the development, into the Bull Creek watershed annually. Libertyville spent $3,450,000 in taxpayer dollars to clean Butler Lake.

Design
13. The 6-foot-high, white vinyl fenced yards are minuscule, with limited opportunity for school-aged children to play near home. They will be lured to parks out of sight, or across Butterfield highway to the school campus.
14. Street designs are straight, encouraging dangerous car speeds.
15. Alley loaded homes are fraught with challenges: traffic, unsightly storage, litter, pet disturbances and fouling, parking, ambient pedestrian traffic , loitering, noise and unwanted gatherings.
16. The 1,000-foot long, 8-foot-high reflecting sound wall on Butterfield is a visual obstruction, and a road noise nuisance to Ridgewood residents and to Butterfield School. The wall will encourage driver speeding as well.
17. The design hides the development’s open space from Libertyville residents, tucking the park out of sight from commuters and local residents alike.

Zoning Compliance
We do not believe that the proposed development is in the best interests of the citizens of Libertyville. It is not a fair offer to be made to potential first home buyers or “moving down” buyers either. We ask all responsible to acknowledge accountability in respecting these considerations as stated in the

Village Zoning Code:
18. Planned Development approvals are subject to Libertyville Zoning Code Article 16-9.5 . This development does not adequately comply with our guidance for adverse impacts, interference with surrounding development, adequate public facilities, traffic congestion, destruction of significant natural, scenic features in the vicinity.
19. According to Article 16-9.5-c Special Use Permits are dependent upon meeting the standards of public benefit, assessing alternative locations, and mitigating adverse impacts. “

The Village and Archdiocese of Chicago are awaiting the final decision of 9th Circuit Lake County Judge on whether the development will go forward. The crux of the argument is traffic congestion and traffic safety. Decision is due on or around January 31, 2019.

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