A revised plan to build 128 houses on the former Cuneo property in Vernon Hills is moving to the next round of review, although village trustees say various aspects still need to be addressed.
The distance of houses from the street, pedestrian connections and other details of how a private, gated community would fit on the heavily wooded property are among the details of particular interest to village officials in what they envision as a statement-making project.
One certainty is the proposal by Pulte Homes for the area surrounding the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens will be far from a standard subdivision.
"Is it a `Wow' to me? Not yet," Trustee Cindy Hebda said Tuesday after an informal presentation and discussion of plans for Cuneo Estates, a collection of ranch and two-story single family houses with starting prices for basic models in the $600,000 range.
What is built is important to the village because of a desire for a signature community to complement and provide funds for a multimillion dollar renovation of one of the best-known amenities in town.
Loyola University Chicago acquired the 93-acre site west of Milwaukee Avenue and south of the former EJ&E railroad tracks in 2010 as a gift from the Cuneo family. Proceeds from the sale of a portion of the property to Pulte would provide $3 million for repairs and upgrades to the century-old mansion that for many years was open to the public as a museum.
Pulte made an initial presentation in November, but the village board was concerned about architectural features of the houses and a plan that had some blocking the view of the mansion from Milwaukee Avenue.
The revised plan took into account a recently approved village ordinance requiring all brick, stone or masonry on new construction, and located ranch houses near the mansion rather than mixing them with two-story models. It also calls for 44 "key lots" with additional brick or stone and design features.
Mark Mastrorocco, Pulte's director of land acquisition, said the project would include significant landscape preservation and enhancement, with architecture that provides variety but is sensitive to and cohesive with the existing Cuneo mansion and gardens.
That would be accomplished, in part, through a curvilinear street network, long vistas, large parks, mid-block green spaces and an internal trail system connected to village trails, trustees were told.
Mastrorocco said buyers would have hundreds of choices, given the variety of designs, colors and materials.
"Pulte is not pulling elevations off the shelf from other communities," he said. "We know the village holds new partners in the community to a high standard."
Most of the lots will be tucked into the woods. Every lot backs up to open space but homes are planned as being closer to the road than in a typical subdivision.
Mayor Roger Byrne said he was concerned with setbacks from the street and lack of sidewalks in some areas, but arbitrarily requiring the setbacks be extended could be a deal breaker, according to Mastrorocco.
Those issues and other questions, such as the trail connections, will be addressed with village staff during what is called technical review in advance of a public hearing before the village's planning and zoning committee.
"They have made great strides from what was initially proposed," Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey said. "It's pretty good and I think we'll get there."
However, there is a long way before final approval, which also includes Lake County as party to a covenant that prohibits residential development on a portion of the property.