Crystal Lake City Council Approves Watershed Manual and Stormwater Management Ordinance

By a 5-1 one, with Jeff Thorsen voting “No” and Ralph Dawson absent, the Crystal Lake City Council approved a modified Watershed Manual and Stormwater Management Ordinance Tuesday night.

Many changes suggested by the public, technical advisory committee members and the firm hired by the Crystal Lake Park District to take a look at Gary Schaefer’s Hey Associates’ word were accepted. It seemed to me that he thought the most significant was a flow chart of the entire process in Chapter 3.

The size of rain gardens and grass swales were specified. Bio-retention was defined as a 2-year 24-hour design.

Specific testing would be required for engineering soil, for example, sand and fill brought onto the site. Geo-textiles would be required between engineered soil layers.

Technical Advisory Committee member George Boulet’s suggestion that land 50 feet around infiltration basins be surveyed for drain tiles was included.

Dry wells and trench drains were completely eliminated as a way to infiltrate water. Monitoring ports and groundwater wells were added.

Even last night, significant changes were made.

It seems to me the most significant was the acceptance of Jeff Thorsen’s suggestion that commercial and residential property be treated equally as far as enforcement of the watershed ordinance goes. Thorsen objected to what he saw as developer self-enforcement.

Under the draft presented, commercial developers would have been allowed to hire their own experts to oversee their work, with the city’s consultant only during spot inspections of the development and reviewing paperwork.

There was universal agreement that cutting property owners associations out of the monitoring and maintenance of what was required under the ordinance was a good idea. A consultant hired by the city would be the inspector and enforcer. Work would be paid by taxes collected under Special Service Area assessments (collected as a property tax).

Thorsen suggested that commercial developers be treated similarly and when Mayor Aaron Shepley summarized the changes he thought should be made, he included several of Thorsen’s suggestions.

“Sometimes I think everything happens for a reason,” he said, concluding that the ordinance had actually become better over its long gestation period. “I think we’re in very good shape.”

“We are taking ownership of the residential, while leaving it with the developers,” Thorsen observed. “Why not take control of both? Just a thought.”

“I have no problem with treating residential and commercial properties the same way,” Shepley said right before the vote.

The mayor also agreed with Thorsen, that the fee should not be a flat rate of $1,500, but should be a sliding scale proportional to the size of the property.

Shepley also used his lawyering skills to suggest changing permissive language to mandatory language in a number of places in the document.

One of them was making it certain that the city would pursue a partnership and seek assistance from the Crystal Lake Park District. Such action was optional in the draft, as presented.

Thorsen still did not think it was strong enough. He argued unsuccessfully that storm water retention east of Virginia Street and north of Route 176 should be the same as it is west of Virginia Street and south of Route 176.

Thorsen also argued unsuccessfully for limitations on mass grading, “especially on a large, large property.”

He suggested limiting it to 20 acres at a time or 50% of the property.

“You’re starting to move into how much risk is acceptable,” Schaefer said. “It’s adequate as written.

Then, there was what seemed to be a significant “but.”

“You gotta have enforcement,” he stressed. “If there is anything at the bottom of the totem pole, it’s soil erosion control.”

Thorsen tried to figure out why 100% on-site infiltration was required for a 10-year, 24-hour rainfall close to the lake, but not east of Route 14 (Virginia Street) and north of Route 176.

He wondered why.

“In those particular areas, they could (stand it. They are) not as close to the lake,” Schaefer said.

“I wouldn’t have a problem if you make it 10 year everywhere.”

Thorsen’s take was,

“I’m not sure I understand any rationale beyond we’re not going to be able to do as much north of 176 without it.”

Although Thorsen voted against the ordinance and manual, he concluded, “It’s really evolved to something that’s come a long, long way.”

Throsen’s persistent and perceptive questions and suggestions belied the pessimism expressed in this comment right before he yielded the floor to Shepley:

”I know I’m talking to deaf ears.”

Before voting for the measures, Brett Hopkins echoed what Thorsen and Shepley had said regarding the document’s being “a living document.” Hopkins wanted to make sure that any suggestions from the watershed area planning process would be inserted in the ordinance and manual.

Shepley agreed that would be the case, that the council had little choice with so much attention having been focused on the issue.

Oh, yes, almost forgot.

I have suggested, even harped, that phosphorus should not be allowed in new developments on the watershed and that the minimization of salt was more of a suggestion than a mandate. Shepley pointed out that the ordinance reflected my (and Larry Lane’s) wishes concerning phosphorus. He also said that there would have to be annual plans filed regarding de-icing for private roads which would demonstrate how public safety would be maintained while minimizing salt.

Schaefer has repeatedly pointed out that these two chemicals are the biggest threat to Crystal Lake’s water quality.

Shepley also mentioned something about herbicides and pesticides, I think, but I didn’t catch it.

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All pictures were taken at previous meetings.

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