LaGrange Village Board will continue BEDS Plus discussion April 27

More than 200 people packed a meeting of the LaGrange Village Board on March 23 as that body began deliberations on an application by BEDS Plus, a social services agency for the homeless, to construct a multi-use facility on the southwest corner of East and Ogden avenues, across the street from Brookfield.

Trustees deferred taking a vote on rezoning the property and granting several zoning variances, which were recommended by the village’s Plan Commission by a 4 to 3 vote earlier in March.

Instead the village board requested additional information from BEDS Plus and will take up the matter again at its April 27 meeting. It’s unclear whether the board will vote to approve or deny the application on that date.

“I do think the discussion has been less emotional and more fact-based,” said Tina Rounds, executive director of BEDS Plus, whose proposed new facility would combine the agency’s administrative and support services offices and would include 20 “permanent supportive” studio apartments to provide residences for the chronically homeless.

“If [the board] says yes or no, it’ll be an educated decision,” Rounds said. “I don’t think anyone could ask for anything more than that.”

As the agency’s plan has wound its way through the village of LaGrange planning process, opposition to it has grown more visible and vocal. At a five-hour Plan Commission meeting on March 10, about 75 people rose to address the agency’s proposal. 

At the village board meeting last week, there were 21 people who made public comments during a meeting that lasted almost four hours.

While the comments on March 10 and on March 23 alternated between support and opposition, written comments directed to the village prior to the March 10 Plan Commission meeting were predominantly against the plan.

Many who oppose the plan fear the facility will draw more crime to the area, while others didn’t want LaGrange to become a “regional center” for homeless services.

BEDS Plus has sought to reassure residents that the agency is not anticipating a wide expansion of its services in LaGrange and has offered to relocate two of its four emergency overnight shelters currently in local churches to other places.

“There’s been a very good showing of public participation in a process,” said Rounds. “And it’s bringing to light feelings and dynamics in the community, which is fine as long as they are appropriately addressed.”

BEDS Plus targeted the long-vacant property for the new facility after inquiring about other sites in both Countryside and Brookfield. The property, which is presently zoned for commercial use, sits in a transitional area spot amid nearby residential and industrial uses.

The agency has a contract to purchase the property, which is contingent on the village board approving its application. BEDS Plus had hoped to wrap up the approval for the facility early in 2015 in order to prepare the site, complete plans and begin construction in 2016. Occupancy is planned for 2017.

But Rounds said the agency hopes the village board will act sooner rather than later on its application.

“We prefer to have a decision made, as the clock ticks,” Rounds said.

Among the items the village board has requested is a market appraisal to determine the impact on property values of the facility being built versus other uses on the property. The agency has already provided the board with nine academic studies that speak to the impact on property values of a facility such as the one being proposed, Rounds said.

The board has also sought demographic information related to BEDS’ clientele, police data related to incidents involving the homeless, financial information with respect to how the facility’s construction and operations will be funded and more information on the condition of transportation services.