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Village Board Rejects Sisters of Mercy Development Proposal

Trustees will continue three year litigation of Sisters of Mercy development.

The village of Evergreen Park decided Monday to continue litigation to stop the

After walking into a packed room of residents and hearing arguments for and against the development that the village has been split on for three years, Trustees voted 4 - 2 to continue litigation against the Sisters of Mercy. Trustees Jerome Bosch and James McQuillan voted against the majority of the board. 

In 1954, the village gave the land to the Sisters of Mercy under the condition that it would be used for "religious educational purposes." When the sisters proposed the development of a retirement center for members of clergy in 2008, the village filed a lawsuit, because the land would not be used for its originally intended purpose.

To date, concerns raised about the facility have included its use, traffic, safety for children walking near the development, joggers in the area and environmental effects on residents who live nearby.

“It has no benefit to the children," said Kathy Rohan, president of , which has pledged support to those against the development. "The construction is a safety hazard. It will cause traffic and will reduce open space,” said Rohan.

Before the vote, Mayor James Sexton explained that the board cannot go into a detailed discussion because of the ongoing lawsuit with the Sisters of Mercy. However, he did say that the village was only concerned with the legality of the Sisters of Mercy agreement to develop an educational facility on the land as agreed nearly 60 years ago.

The Sisters of Mercy had originally planned for a 212-unit, five-story continued care retirement community in 2008. They later downsized their plans to 146-unit, four-story independent living facility and a four-story facility to alleviate the village's concerns of overcrowding, but the village board rejected those plans last year.

The latest plans included the downsized facility, but restricted the home to members of clergy for the first year of operation, and gave the Sisters of Mercy the option to petition the village to allow general members of the public to live in the facility after one year. It also gave the village the right to reject that petition.

“This residential facility will foster educational interaction with the school and facilitators,” said John Costello, Chairman of the Board of Saint Xavier University, which sits near the site of the proposed facility.

“Our students will be given the opportunity to gain intergenerational experience. The facility will also offer employment and internships to our students,” he added.

"This is the perfect place for Mercy Circle. It’s the perfect environment," said Virginia Wendell, Director of St. Joseph Village of Chicago. "Is there no place here that can provide compassionate care that we do?”

Cathy Manahan, who has been against the development from the beginning, continued to urge the board to reject the current settlement stating that Evergreen Park already has an agreement in place with the Sisters of Mercy which says only an educational facility can be built on the property.

Manahan and Beth Amado, the other plaintiff listed on the residents' lawsuit, were notified a few months ago that To fund legal fees for their own representation, the two have established the Save Educational Space Legal Fund. Attorney Patrick J. Ruberry, a partner at Chicago-based Litchfield Cavo LLP, is representing them. 

Since the property is technically located in the city of Chicago, Sexton said that the construction and similar logistics should be addressed to city officials.

Trustee Mary Keane reaffirmed that the board is taking everyone’s concerns under consideration and is concerned about the comfort and care of the clergy. She said that the village realizes that the litigation has been an expensive endeavor--about $125,000 in legal fees-- but was worth continuing litigation at this time. 

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