MCC Baseball Stadium Zoning Postponed a Month

Wednesday night, the Crystal Lake city council chamber was packed for the Planning and Zoning hearing on McHenry County College’s proposal to cover 50% of its property with impermeable surfaces like roofs and parking lots.

(If you’re not up to speed on this issue, take a look at this article about the preliminary meeting the third week of June. If want more, go to the search engine at the top of this page and type in “baseball stadium.” There’s a lot more than zoning going on in the MCC proposal)

A lot in attendance were college employees who got there early enough to get the best parking spots and the best seats. The MMC board was there convened in concurrent session.

Since the meeting started at 6 PM, went on until almost midnight and it’s now after midnight, let me try to sum up what happened.

For starters, let me say that if the quoted remarks are in boldface type, the people did not use the words I use. But I believe my words summarize what they said, although I admit they in no way do justice to their subtlety and depth. I’m too tired to type a word-for-word report on the most technical testimony. And, anyway, since they spoke at the beginning of the meeting, it is more like that the Northwest Herald, the Daily Herald and the Chicago Tribune will give you details on that part of the hearing.

College-hired engineer Jeff Schuh of Patrick Engineering said, “No problem.”

Crystal Lake-hire watershed consultant Gary Schaefer said, “No problem.”

“We want to ask for a suspension of your vote on this matter,” Crystal Lake Park District President Mike Zellman said toward the end of the meeting. The picture I got of MCC President Walt Packard was right after Zellman dropped that bombshell.

Attorney John Cowlin pointed out that the hearing had to be completed within a set time period, but that will allow the next meeting on September 5th, to be OK.

Zellman also invited people to attend the Thursday night park board meeting at Crystal Lake and Walkup Avenues, where Gary Schaefer, who also advises the park district, will be asked still more questions.

Sierra Club Clean Water Advocate since 2001 and McHenry County Defenders’ spokesperson Cindy Skrukrud said, “We’re not so sure. And why wouldn’t you give us up-to-date information we asked for in a timely fashion?”

Leona Nelson, who led the effort to get rid of septic tanks around Crystal Lake, along with future Mayor Arlene Fetzner, said, “Do not give away the future of the lake.” Fetzner led the way for the watershed ordinance.

Former long-time Defenders President Dwight Dalton said,

“These folks here who are alleged experts seem to say that more development and less pervious property will improve the watershed.”

I said, “Blank checks are a really bad idea. They can come back to bite you m in the butt,” referring to the permission MCC is requesting to develop
50% of a 57 acre property between the current college site and Ridgefield Road some thirty years from now.

Grant Dahke, a former 6-year vice chairman of the East Dundee Planning and Zoning Board offered specific objections based on the zoning ordinance conditions not being met.

William Kasicki from Cherry Valley Road complained about the traffic, light pollution and fireworks that the baseball stadium would create for him and his neighbors. He suggested there was a reason where the stadium the Kane County Cougars play was built on a garbage dump away from residential property.

“I won’t be able to see the stars anymore. At 10 o’clock it will be like Disney World,” Kasicki said.

A woman who lives on Sunnyside named Elizabeth Puk(something the way I heard it. Help me out here.) said that she was annexed by the city because the city wanted to get rid of her septic tank. That she had to spend $15,000 for sewer and water. That was “because the City of Crystal Lake was very concerned with pollution of Crystal Lake.”

She then complained that MCC wants to increase its coverage of its property to 50%.

“I feel that’s a mixed message being sent by the city.”

She added that she had to close her windows when there are ball games at Lippold Park and when ten minutes of fireworks were set off this week, “It sounded as if there was a war zone.”

A former 10-year zoning commissioner, Mark Ehlert, remembered that when he was in office, the commission treated the Watershed Ordinance like a Bible. He criticized the college for keeping the proposal a secret for the last two years.

“You begin to wonder where the money is coming from,” Ehlet said. “It’s a LLC,” he pointed out. “LLC” stands for Limited Liability Corporation. MCC “kind of let us down by not bringing us into their master plan.”

John Darger, a current student and baseball fan thought a baseball stadium somewhere in McHenry County “is a terrific idea. What I don’t understand is why the college wants to build a ballpark.

“Is what is going to be built justify what is being taken away?”

He, as I, pointed out that there was no guarantee that the road improvements to Routes 176 and 14 would occur by the time they would be needed to handle game traffic.

He made what seems quite a logical suggestion:

“Why don’t we build it down in the Vulcan Lakes area?”

It was designed to be an entertainment area, after all.

He also said it would be a “nightmare for students, (whose) classes start at 7 o’clock.

“I don’t see how that will serve the students of McHenry County College.

Mike Williamson, also a student quoted from the Friends of McHenry County College newsletter. It drew an analogy with the movie “Field of Dreams.” “From a field to a dream,” its article said.

“Crystal Lake still figures in my life as a dream,” he said, referring to the lake.

Williamson had also done research on minor league baseball and the Frontier League specifically.

“I don’t understand the nature of this project at all,” he said. He pointed out the league has started in 1992-93 and two teams failed right away. He said the Frontier League’s web site claimed 1.2 million people attended games “for the entire league” in the most recent year. If I understood him correctly, that worked out to about 100,000 fans for each team.

“That’s not going to cut defraying the costs. Do we build this and in five years they move somewhere else? That seems to happen elsewhere.”

Then Williamson came up with an observations that brought the most chuckles from the crowd. He talked of the “four classrooms overlooking the ball field. I’m sorry to say this, but they looked a lot like sky boxes to me.”

He also complained about the way his Freedom of Information request took “way longer than the required time.”

And, finally, he touched, as did others, on the theme of precedent:

”Once this is established, how can we tell the next developer,

’Oh, you can’t do that. We just did this for MCC.’”

Toward the end of the meeting, former State Rep. Rosemary Kurtz, who also was a long-time member of the Zoning Commission, praised the Bauer Watershed Report.

Without it, “At Lippold Park, we would be having a Holiday Inn (and) parking lot. We would have given in to a pair of environmental engineers on a development on Oak Street.

“It would be crazy to replace (the Bauer Watershed Ordinance) with the Hey Report (when the only major change is the elimination of the 20% maximum for watershed development),” Kurtz continued.

She told of her friends getting a report that left out two pages of an appendix, which compared the Bauer Report with the Hey Report. Her clear implication was that this was not an accident.

Kurtz also brought up the precedent issue.

“If you do vote ‘Yes,’ it will be setting a precedent which will start the domino effect. There are still 1,000 to 1,500 more acres (in the watershed).

“There are well-funded developers just waiting in the wings. If they don’t get what they want, (they will take the city to court.)

There was some misunderstanding on Chairman Tom Hayden’s part about recognizing Kurtz. He apparently cross off her name when he called her MCC Board member daughter Donna’s name.

“I didn’t think you were giving me the runaround the city did the other day,” she said to laughter in the room.

The final member of the public to testify was Pat Morris. She asked whether the state would allow two traffic light so close together on Route 14. Being a member of the Ridgefield Cemetery Association, she also was interested in what the college was going to do with the 57 acre parcel it wants to buy if it can get permission to build on 50%, instead of 20% of it.

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