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HIGHLAND — If the concept wins Town Council approval, a boutique hotel/office building complex will be built at the corner of Main Street and Prairie Avenue.

The Plan Commission, earlier this week, unanimously approved rezoning of the 9-acre site where Dr. Claude Gendreau, a veterinary surgeon from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, wants to build Cardinal Campus. Gendreau operates a similar boutique hotel in Homewood, Illinois.

The switch of the property to a business planned unit development must still be approved by the Town Council. It has the final vote on all rezoning issues.

The project would consist of seven two-story office buildings, one three-story hotel and public open spaces on the edge of the Whispering Oaks subdivision.

"The goal is to make it as ecologically friendly as possible," Gendreau said, noting the buildings would use solar panels and storage batteries.

The project would be built in three phases spanning about 10 years.

"We expect to break ground in the fall," Gendreau said of the first three buildings, which would take about 18 months to construct.

Each of the office buildings would have a footprint of about 12,000 square feet and the project drawings indicate as many as 240 trees around and throughout the site.

"We are also requiring brick for all of these buildings," said project manager Tim Kirkby, who works for Gendreau.

He said the high-end, 30-room luxury hotel would feature a limestone veneer and a fountain near the front.

A packed audience had a number of Whispering Oaks residents voicing opposition to the project, but others expressing support.

"A development of this nature doesn't come along too often," said attorney James Wieser, who represents Gendreau. "We actually hit the (Highland) master plan right on the head."

After an initial presentation last September, some residents said they were concerned about the proposed drainage plan and the location of the hotel.

In response, Gendreau modified some elements of the plan. The hotel was relocated farther west to be away from Whispering Oaks residents.

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A 30-inch stormwater line, originally planned to exit into a detention pond on the site, would be extended north to Ramblewood Drive and into an existing pond there, said engineer Tom Price, who also works for Gendreau.

Underground water storage also is part of the plan.

Price said the plan should slightly improve current drainage in the surrounding general area.

Commission Chairman Mark Schocke said he has been assured the drainage plan is feasible.

A road inside the complex, which will have ingress/egress on Main Street at Plum Creek Drive and on Prairie at Timberidge Lane, would feature permeable paver bricks to allow rainwater to seep into the underground storage, Price said.

"There's room to store the 100-year rainfall in there," said Highland's engineering consultant John Phipps of NIES Engineering Inc.

Resident Violet Lesko expressed concern about traffic and suggested a stoplight at Prairie and Main.

Schocke told her the Traffic Safety Commission currently is studying the situation and will make appropriate recommendations.

Resident Carol Kerr said she didn't like that people in the office buildings would be peering down at local residents.

"(This is) not what we envisioned when we bought our houses."

But Donald Dykstra, president of the Whispering Oaks Townhome Association, said he is pleased the developer listened and responded positively to the residential suggestions.

"(Since they) will be providing more green space and saving as many trees as possible, I believe the proposed development, Cardinal Campus, will be an important addition to the town," he said.

The commission voted to conduct a public hearing next month on preliminary subdivision approval for the project.

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