Plans for assisted living facility crumble

Sarah Sandlow, News Editor

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A school bus blocks the intersection of Shermer and Techny Road, the location of the rejected site for Heritage Woods, an assisted living facility. The Village Board of Trustees denied the developer’s request to rezone the location partly due to complaints of the possibility of increased traffic, preventing the project from going forward. Photo by Ben Jutzi

After months of controversy and resistance from the Northbrook community, the plan for the construction of the assisted living facility known as Heritage Woods was rejected on Sept. 12. The building was planned to be located on the corner of Shermer and Techny Road.

In a phone interview, Stephen Barron, president of Barron Development and developer of Heritage Woods, said the building would have been an affordable assisted living facility for seniors that have issues with activities of daily living, also known as ADLs. The building would have contained 105 assisted living units for seniors.

The Northbrook plan commission, which holds public hearings and makes recommendations concerning the development of the town, unanimously advised against the Heritage Woods development at a meeting held at the Northbrook Village Hall on Sept. 5. The application to rezone then went to the Board of Trustees at another meeting on Sept. 12 where it was denied without further discussion.

In a phone interview, Sandy Früm, president of the Village of Northbrook and the Board of Trustees, said the decision to deny the project had a unanimous vote from the board.

“Everyone agreed that the project was too big for the site [and] too tall … and the impact on that corner would be too much,” Früm said.

She said the building would have caused significant traffic in the area of construction and the size of it would have overwhelmed the single-family homes in the neighborhood. Since the population of Northbrook is getting older, there are more seniors who want to stay in the community. She hopes the developer finds another plot to build Heritage Woods. As of now, she does not know what will happen to the lot where the construction was supposed to take place.

Barron said Heritage Woods is needed in Northbrook because other senior living facilities are either full or unable to accommodate those who cannot afford proper assisted living. He believes an assisted living facility would cause less additional traffic compared to other commercial developments, such as a convenience store or gas station.

Barron said he thinks there will eventually be a place that will welcome the development, and he plans to look everywhere, in other areas of Northbrook or in the surrounding suburbs, to try to provide homes for the elderly.

Northbrook village trustee Kathryn Ciesla said in a phone interview that even though she was not able to attend the Sept. 12 meeting, she would have voted down the project.

“[The area is] very congested,” said Ciesla. “So to imagine putting a multi-story … building with workers, caregivers and relatives on that site would’ve added to the traffic congestion in that spot.”

Barron said he does not think traffic would have been an issue with Heritage Woods since the residents who would have lived in the assisted living facility there would not have been driving.

Junior Cecil Lay, who lives near the proposed site, said he heard about the plans for the building over the summer, but did not think much about it until he got back from vacation. He was surprised to realize how much of a negative effect the building would have on the community.

“Nobody really knew about the project until one of our neighbors saw this sign … where Heritage Woods was going to be built,” said Lay. “And they told my mom about it … so she did some research … and we all got worried.”

Junior Samantha Cramin, who lives near the area where the construction was supposed to happen, said she and others in her neighborhood were opposed to the building because it would have brought more traffic, which is a danger to pedestrians and students.

She also said she thinks the facility could have lowered the property values of the surrounding houses if it had been built.

Lay said he spoke to people who thought the lot would not be able to support as large of a building as Heritage Woods, which needs more space than is available.

“I think it’s a good idea to have [affordable assisted living] in Northbrook,” said Lay. “But … there are plenty of lots all over Northbrook that could be used that are way better … for the [building’s] location.”

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