There was a point Monday night, about two and a half hours into the LaGrange Village Board meeting, where BEDS Plus’ proposal to build a mixed-use support services and long-term housing center at the corner of Ogden and East avenues looked doomed.
Needing four trustee votes to pass due to a formal protest filed by adjacent neighbors — and with one village trustee absent from the meeting — the plan looked to be falling a vote short.
But an hour later, trustees hammered out a deal and passed the plan 5 to 0, setting the stage for the facility to break ground sometime in 2016 — as long as design, funding and property ownership issues are resolved.
“BEDS can honor its commitments,” Executive Director Tina Rounds, who agreed to design changes on the condition that the agency raise 75 percent of its construction funding within 12 months. She also promised to better communicate with residents in the area, who continue to feel that the facility, which will serve the homeless, is being dumped on them.
“We will continue to be a partner in every way we can,” said Rounds. “Our door is open for the community and for discussion.”
It became clear Monday that the BEDS Plus facility, which will offer daytime services to the area’s homeless and provide 20 supportive housing units for people who are chronically homeless, was a symbol of a real divide in LaGrange — between those in the affluent historic areas of the village and the northeast side, which has a large concentration of African-American residents and is perceived to be an area where crime is a problem.
“My neighborhood is on the rebound. I don’t know why you all want to kick us back down,” said one east side resident whose name was not audible. “You don’t want to see it, so put it on the other side of the bridge. You’ll drive past it, but we’ll have to live with it. We need someone who will be the voice for us.”
The facility will be located directly across the street from Brookfield, which sits on the east side of East Avenue.
Trustee Bill Holder, who said he would vote against the proposal until he was satisfied the village had imposed stricter conditions on BEDS Plus, called the issue “easily the most polarizing issue in my 18 years as a member of the zoning board of appeals and the village board.”
Trustee David McCarty also had indicated he’d vote against the proposal until the facility’s design provided for more indoor and outdoor gathering space for permanent residents of the facility and to remove some elements, such as a shower facility, from the ground-floor area that would serve homeless clients during the day.
McCarty called amenities for residents of the facility “negligible,” and convinced trustees to order design changes that would rectify that problem.
Like Holder, McCarty also wanted a strict time limit for BEDS Plus to square away its funding.
“I think it’s imperative to put limitations on how quickly [BEDS] has to act on it,” McCarty said. “We can’t wait two years.”
The other three trustees — Mark Kuchler, Mark Langan and Jeff Nowack — strongly supported the proposal. Kuchler, in particular, urged trustees to compromise in order to make the facility a reality.
Seizing on the near universal regard both residents and officials have for BEDS Plus as a social service program serving the homeless, Kuchler implored trustees to reach a compromise instead of delaying a vote or killing the proposal.
“If we say no to BEDS, who do we say yes to?” Kuchler asked.
While BEDS Plus’ plan is now approved, there’s still one more hurdle. Last week a third party filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent the sale of the bank-owned property to BEDS Plus.
The plaintiff is claiming ownership of part of the property and has sued the bank and is seeking an order to delay or prevent a sale until the title is sorted out. The parties met in court Tuesday morning. Information on the status of the case was not available by press time.