At the beginning of Wednesday’s Plan Commission meeting, Wilmette Community Development Director John Adler noted that the only thing up for discussion was whether or not White Lodging had met the requirements set by the Village Board in September that would allow the Marriott Residence Inn project to move forward. The Village Board had already decided the proposed hotel construction was worth pursuing, so the project’s merits were no longer up for debate.
It was a fact that multiple members of the commission bemoaned as residents of Old Glenview Road and Lockerbie Lane continued to voice their opposition to having a six-story hotel built near their homes.
“My personal opinion is that this is not a good project,” said Commissioner Michael Bailey. “My personal view is that to say there's a need for a hotel in Wilmette is inaccurate. There are plenty of hotels in reasonable distance, including a very large one in Skokie. I find the concerns of the residents compelling.”
Despite their objections, the Plan Commission voted 4-1 that the requirements of the planned unit development ordinance had been met, after listening to a presentation from the project’s attorney, architect and landscaper. Plan Commission Chair Charmain Borys Later voted against the PUD, saying that she was concerned about drainage issues and that there was still debate about where dumpsters would be placed, and what sort of landscaping would be used to provide a buffer between the hotel and the residential area.
“I feel like I don't have information to say yes or no,” Later said. “Personally, I do not want to give final approval to a project I don't feel 100 percent comfortable with.”
Bailey, Later and Commissioner Scott Goldstein all said they felt the Marriott was too big for the space it would be built on.
“I don't think this project is at all consistent with the residential nature of the community,” Bailey said. “I would encourage the Village Trustees to reconsider their recommendations.”
Residents voice objections
A handful of residents testified that they still had concerns about the construction. Beth Benson said that she believe that the Marriott would reduce property values, cause sewer issues and create pedestrian safety concerns.
“The staff is aware of our unified total opposition to the PUD,” she said. “The changes proposed do not even come close to meeting our objections.”
Lockerbie Lane resident Randy Gerber said he still had objections to the hotel’s appearance, despite assurances from Mark Eriksson of CSO Architects that the hotel had toned down its color scheme and added more than 3,000 square feet of brick.
“I'm not a billionaire, like the owner of White Lodging, but I can afford more brick than he can,” Gerber said. “I would think if we'd build a hotel in Wilmette, we'd want it to be a crown jewel and show it off. This is an embarrassment.”
Resident Gary Berkovich presented a slide show of his concerns, and encouraged Marriott to consider building a 12-story hotel so that the building could be set further back on the property, providing room for more parking spaces, preserving existing trees and reducing the impact on residents. White Lodging’s attorney Greg Dose said that change would not be feasible.
“We appreciate the passion and the interest of the residents and we respect that greatly,” Dose said. “We did closely look at the concept of having a taller hotel, but it's hugely more expensive. The whole construction type changes.”
Berkovich also said that “numerous serious legal violations” had occurred during the approval process and that he and other residents plan to take them up with the Village Board at their meeting April 10.