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Family plans to donate home in $15M endowment to Lake Forest College

The owners home 1045 Walden Road want donate it Lake Forest College create center for medieval renaisssance scholarship. | LindBlaser/Sun-Times

The owners of the home at 1045 Walden Road want to donate it to Lake Forest College to create a center for medieval and renaisssance scholarship. | Linda Blaser/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 31, 2013 2:37AM

Lake Forest officials continue to mull the future use of a single-family home on Walden Avenue, which the owners hope to someday donate to Lake Forest College as the Krebs Center for Medieval and Renaissance Scholarship.

Zoning Board of Appeals members voted 6-1 Monday to continue its discussion of a special use permit request and to reopen the public hearing only on class size, frequency and duration that the college intends to hold at the Krebs Center.

Commissioner Richard Christoff, who said he preferred making a final decision Oct. 29, cast the sole “no” vote.

More than 30 residents, mostly people who live in the vicinity of the home located at 1045 Walden Road, sat through the three-hour discussion and presentations. It was the second time the Zoning Board reviewed the petition for a delayed special use permit for the 8-year-old home on a 2.5-acre lot. Robert and Anne Krebs eventually plan to donate the home, made with many materials from Florence, Italy, to the college.

The total value of the house, furnishings, art and an endowment are valued at $15 million, according to Liz Libby, the Lake Forest College spokesperson. The Lake County Assessor’s estimate of fair-market value for the house is $5.8 million. A $5 million endowment would fund the property’s upkeep.

When the home will be donated is uncertain, said Robert Krebs, 71, adding he and his wife intend to live there “as long as we can.

“We can give the house to Lake Forest College along with the art and contents in the house in an endowment, which we would most likely do even if we don’t get the permit,” he said. “The reason we’re doing this now is to be transparent and work something out with our neighbors that will be OK with them and the college ahead of time.”

The majority of the dozen neighbors who spoke have concerns with the amount of vehicular traffic to the home, which lies in a residential area that has no sidewalks and is located approximately one mile south of the college campus, and with the number of people who will be going in and out on a daily and weekly basis.

Lake Forest College President Steve Schutt outlined 12 conditions of approval the college agreed to following comments made at the first zoning board meeting on the request on Sept. 23.

Those conditions include:

• Limiting classes to three per week between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. with only one class at a time and no more than two classes per day.

• No more than 10 evening lectures or programs per year with attendance not to exceed 40 people.

• No more than four outdoor events per year, not to exceed 100 individuals. All evening events would end at 10 p.m.

• One or two eight-passenger college shuttle buses would transport most students to the upper-level art history and history classes, with a few driving their own vehicles.

• Up to five visiting scholars would be allowed to reside in the house on a short-term basis, with no students allowed overnight.

• A college faculty member or staff member — and their family — may be permitted to live in the house on a long-term basis. If that were to occur, the number of visiting scholars would be reduced.

• No on-site parking would be allowed on surrounding streets. Parking would be permitted only in the existing motor park on the property.

• The current Walden Road entrance would be blocked and vehicles entering the property would only be allowed in on Ringwood Road. Walden Road is a private, one-lane road.

• No vehicles from the college would be allowed south of the home and only an unlit plaque at the front door would identify the building as the Krebs Center.

• If the college closes, or the Krebs Center closes, the property reverts to residential zoning.

Most residents who spoke during the public testimony were not convinced the conditions would alleviate their concerns about putting an annex of Lake Forest College in their heavily-wooded neighborhood of large homes on large lots.

Veronica DeNicolo, who moved into the neighborhood recently, walks daily with her toddler son on the streets since there are no sidewalks and specifically chose the location away from the college in search of a quiet neighborhood.

“If I would have known about this, we would not have purchased our house there,” DeNicolo said.

Resident Jim Cathcart suggested the college sell the home and use the proceeds to construct a new Krebs Center on campus rather than creating an institutional use in a residential neighborhood.

“This is a use that does not belong in middle of residential neighborhood,” Don Suter of Lake Forest said.

Other residents who spoke support the plan.

“Under the restrictions of residential zoning, almost anything can happen to a property,” Francis Beidler III of Lake Forest said. “The very preservation of this neighborhood is best preserved by the Krebs Center.”

Zoning Board member Sam Ciccarelli supports the special use permit, saying it is “better for the community at large because of the limits it places over and above what is allowed” for homes in a residential district.

Ciccarelli, however, has concerns about the number of classes.

“That’s where I get hung up,” he said.

The Zoning Board is an advisory board to the City Council. Special use permits can only be granted by the City Council.

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