TLS Veterans gets go-ahead to build affordable housing in McHenry

McHENRY – Despite hesitations over the site, the McHenry City Council has given approval for three eight-unit apartment buildings to be built at Ridge Road and Route 120.

The request came from TLS Veterans, a nonprofit headquartered in McHenry that hopes to provide permanent affordable housing to veterans.

The 5.4 acres is not near city water and sewer systems, meaning that the 24 efficiency apartments expected to be built – one is to be used as offices and another as storage – would have to rely on well and septic.

Erosion and aquifer contamination are potential concerns, according to a natural resources information report prepared by the McHenry-Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Trees cover much of the site, particularly on the southern side near Ridge Road, Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin said.

The property is also on the far northwest side of the city limits, several miles from where businesses begin to line the Route 120 corridor through McHenry.

"A transition should mean [veterans] will live with the community, not taking them all the way out to the outer limits of the city to where they can't walk to a gas station," Alderman Andy Glab said. "They can't walk to any type of facility basically. It's really, really out in the boondocks."

A Pace bus route does travel along Route 120, connecting Woodstock and McHenry with an part-time extension down to the Pioneer Center on Route 31.

Despite the concerns outlined by most of the aldermen at Monday's council meeting and nearby residents at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the proposal was approved in a 6-1 vote, with Glab voting no.

City staff recommended approval, and the Planning and Zoning Commission gave it an unanimous recommendation.

The annexation agreement includes a provision that requires the project remain for veterans and their families. A change would require council approval.

"While the particular location does have challenges ... between the trees and the drainage, I believe that it can all be worked out," Alderwoman Geri Condon said. "As a licensed mental health counselor myself, I know all too well that there is a need for this type of facility, not only in McHenry, but in the county."

Condon also acknowledged the strong support the proposal had from area veterans, pointing to the turnout of veterans – two rows were mostly filled with men wearing the overseas caps commonly worn by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.

The property will remain under the ownership of the Ostend Acres Trust, which was established in 1998 to benefit St. Paul's Episcopal Church. TLS Veterans will have a long-term lease.

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