A new plan for Stonebridge
A view of the back of the manor house at the proposed development for the Stonebridge site in Lake Bluff. Photo taken on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 6, 2012 4:06PM
LAKE BLUFF — The beleaguered Stonebridge site along Green Bay Road has a new developer with a highly ambitious plan. But many questions remain unanswered.
The Lake Bluff Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals held an open hearing of the new proposal at their Nov. 28 meeting.
The Roanoke Group purchased the land in 2011 from the prior developer, New England Builders, and submitted their preliminary materials to village staff on Oct. 30.
Based in El Segundo, Calif., the firm has set up an office in Lake Bluff at 22. E. Scranton Ave. Peter Kyte, who leads the development team, has taken up residence in Chicago and has reportedly been studying Lake Bluff for over a year to determine what makes it special and what residents expect.
At the start of the meeting, Chairwoman Joan Kaltsas told the audience in the packed room that the proposal is only a first draft.
“I hope nobody came here tonight expecting final and irrevocable answers,” she said.
The nearly 48-acre property has been the subject of controversy over the past several years.
When the previous developer, New England Builders, received approvals from the zoning board and the village board that were both 4-3 votes, many residents felt then, and still feel today, that the development’s proposed density was too high at 85 homes. New England Builders’ plan was an age-restricted development for ages 55 and older.
The new proposal removes the age restriction and calls for 100 single-family homes and eight condominiums. The homes would range in size from 1,610 to 4,848 square feet and in price from $475,000 to $1.5 million.
Kyte said that the increase in the number of homes was necessary to absorb the costs of restoring the historic Manor House and Coach House on the property, which are early 20th Century structures that need substantial work to bring them up to code.
The restorations, as well as extensive landscape development of the original Jens Jensen garden, will be done first, Kyte said. Homes would be available for purchase in the fall of 2013, if the development is approved.
Kyte showed slides of similarly sized tracts of land in Lake Bluff to illustrate that the density of housing elsewhere in the village is similar to the Roanoke proposal.
Ron Wisniewski, a Lake Bluff resident, wasn’t buying it. “The comparison to other neighborhoods is invalid, because it’s all squashed here,” Wisniewski said, referring to plans for the front 10 acres which would all be green open space.
Susan McMurray of Lake Bluff questioned the impact the development would have on schools and traffic.
Kyte said that Roanoke has done traffic studies and spoken to school officials and they don’t believe either issue will be a concern.
Charlie Green, a 15-year resident of Lake Bluff, was unmoved and spoke forcefully against the plan.
“In my opinion, we’ve already pushed it pretty far from what it was zoned for,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right for them [Roanoke] to say that this is the only way we can do it.”
Kyte took notes as each speaker voiced their concerns and said he would be happy to talk to anyone personally.
Ed Richardson said he supported the development and that he attended the meeting at the behest of his wife, a former member of the zoning board, who also supported the plan.
Residents were not the only individuals who raised concerns. Board members asked questions on a variety of issues, such as walkability and maintenance of the green space and the width of certain roadways.
Roanoke will consider the issues raised by residents and the board and present an altered proposal at a future meeting. It is uncertain when that meeting will be scheduled. Brandon Stanick, assistant to the village administrator, said it was unlikely to take place at the Dec. 19 meeting.
Making final remarks before the meeting disbanded, Kaltsas said: “We want something to work here.”
The Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Village Hall Board Room at 40 E. Center Ave. More information can be found at www.lakebluff.org.