June 19–With more than $500,000 already spent in legal fees, Mundelein is taking its lawsuit against Grayslake and a local trucking facility to appellate court after a Lake County judge dismissed the case in early May.
Mundelein officials say the 35-acre Saia Inc. trucking terminal along Midlothian Road between Winchester and Peterson roads poses a long-term negative impact on nearby residential subdivisions due to noise, truck traffic and diesel fuel pollution that all reduce quality of life and lower property values, according to a statement issued on May 25.
Lake County Judge Luis A. Berrones disagreed with those claims, which Mundelein outlined over a nine-day trial in late April. Berrones said Mundelein failed to prove the Saia facility is damaging and that Grayslake improperly zoned the land.
Village officials say the Second District Appellate Court in Elgin will hear Mundelein’s rebuttal sometime in 2018. Mundelein first filed its injunction in October 2014, and the 100-dock terminal opened in early 2016.
“I am pleased that the Board of Trustees approved the filing of an appeal in this case because once this facility is fully operational, it will have profound implications and a lasting impact on the community,” Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz said in a written statement. “We have always maintained that this trucking facility has been built in an area not suited for its use.”
In response to a Pioneer Press request for financial data, Mundelein Village Administrator John Lobaito said approximately $520,000 has been spent on legal services relating to the case between August 2014 and April 2017.
Lobaito said Mundelein is committed to the case for two reasons: property tax revenue would be lost and quality of life for residents who are vested in the community would be forever lowered.
Mundelein’s lawsuit says property values could be reduced by between eight and 15 percent due to the trucking terminal. Lobaito said a 15 percent drop in property tax revenue would result in a combined $1.8 million in lost revenue each year for the village, the park district, Fremont Public Library District, Mundelein High School District 120, Mundelein School District 75 and Fremont School District 79.
For just the village, Lobaito said a 15 percent loss equates to $275,000 per year.
After consulting with elected officials and his legal team, Grayslake Assistant Village Manager Kevin Timony declined to comment on Mundelein’s claims.
Judge Berrones, according to a county transcript of his May 2 decision, didn’t find Mundelein’s assessments as credible.
A domino effect negated some of Mundelein’s arguments, as Berrones first and foremost objected to Mundelein’s comparison of the Grayslake facility and a longstanding Saia facility in Burr Ridge.
Berrones said Mundelein had an opportunity to request information during the court proceeding’s discovery phase.
“Plaintiffs could have investigated whether the Grayslake facility, which is new construction, was constructed to address these noise issues that existed in a much older Burr Ridge facility … or whether there were any operating procedures that would be implemented at the Grayslake facility that would minimize some of those noise issues that plaintiffs identified at Burr Ridge,” Berrones said in his May 2 decision. “However, none of this was done.”
After discarding that Mundelein expert, Berrones then expressed doubt over Mundelein’s perceived loss in property values because parts of the argument were based on impacts to Burr Ridge homes.
The transcript of the decision shows Berrones expressed concern over Mundelein’s property assessing expert being unable to explain mathematical adjustments that were done in order to compare the differing Burr Ridge and Mundelein homes.
Finally, Berrones said he was unsatisfied with transportation experts and witnesses that yielded no hard evidence that a large number of trucks were going southbound on Midlothian Road through the densely residential corridor.
“The court, therefore, finds that the opinion testimony provided by plaintiffs’ experts is unpersuasive, unreliable, has no credibility and should be given no weight…” Berrones said.
Berrones said Mundelein provided witnesses from nearby homes that expressed displeasure with the lights from the Saia terminal, but he said upon further questioning none of them seemed bothered by the lights.
In his determination, Berrones said village documents show Mundelein also had plans for a light industrial use if the village annexed that land, and many of the allegedly impacted homes are next to land the state bought more than 20 years ago for a Route 53 extension.
“Other than some subjective fears and concerns testified to by some of the homeowners, there is no credible evidence that property values of the residential areas south of Winchester Road are diminished by the SAIA facility’s zoning,” Berrones said.
The county court document shows neither Grayslake nor Saia offered testimony, but rather motioned that Berrones dismiss the case for lack of proof.
Mundelein officials maintain the Saia facility in Grayslake is operating at just under 50 percent capacity, and the impact will get worse if the injunction is not successful.
“Remember, there are no restrictions on Saia’s operations,” Lobaito said.
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