The Lakewood village board unanimously approved economic incentive and annexation ordinances that allow the $40 million, 165 acre McHenry County SportsPlex to proceed.
The result is three happy guys, Lou Tenor, EnRico Heirman and Jack Porter, plus a plethora of consultants who pretty much answered every question thrown at them.
A zoning hearing started at 6 at the Lakewood-owned Red Tail Golf Club with over 120 people in attendance at its peak. Less than half that number lasted until the midnight hour when about ten minutes of voting approved all the paperwork.
Besides the consultants, village officials and staff, most in attendance were people objecting from the neighborhood.
Lakewood, trying to garner more revenue, has moved aggressively in the last two months to annex property along the western side of Route 47 up to the northern leg of Route 176.
Adjoining property owners are not happy. That includes those who will be living next to baseball fields, plus those south of the area in unincorporated Colleens Cote.
Subdivision board member Peggy Keegan put it this way,
“You’re putting a ghastly complex in the middle of a corn field. If it doesn’t succeed, you have a Motorola, you have a Sears Complex.”
“We feel all of this was done behind our backs,” Tom Balboney, also a resident from the subdivision, said.
An earlier supporter of the project had talked of his father’s having pointed to where Woodfield would be built.
Balboney said that’s why he had moved out here, to get away from places like Woodfield.
“We all feel this was done behind our backs,” he concluded.
Earlier Colleen’s Cote resident Catherine Francis had accurately observed,
“This feels to the residents as a moving train. Suddenly you are in our back yard. Venues could come in that would invite people that we wouldn’t want. There has been no discussion about our safety.
“Are you telling us you want to do this to us for a half a million a year (in new revenue to Lakewood)?”
Village President Erin Smith told neighbors that their concerns would be taken into consideration. Concerns included traffic on Hamilton and Pleasant Valley Roads, noise and light pollution.
It took two hours for the project’s consultants, choreographed by attorney Tom Zanck, to finish their testimony.
Traffic Engineer David Miller explained the new intersection that will result once Pleasant Valley Road is relocated south so it is opposite the south leg of Route 176.
No longer will motorists see a sign that asks, “got mulch?”
Once completed, there will be an elaborate entryway.
There will be ball fields all over the place.
A selling point to the proposal was its environmentally sensitive design by Jack Porter, who developed the Sanctuary of Bull Valley in the City of Woodstock. High quality wet lands like Lighting Creek are being completely avoided. The cold water creek, which contains the Iowa darter, a little perch, will be crossed by a boardwalk.
The boardwalk will be part of a trail system that will be available to the general public. The
developers will charge those participating in tournaments, but don’t plan to do the same for family, friends, coaches, etc.
Porter touted the development as “an opportunity to stimulate the Northwest Quarter of the village.”
He described it as “a public-private partnership” that would never have happened without the support of Dick Durbin, Melissa Bean, Pam Althoff and the village board.
500 construction jobs will be created and under terms of the EB-5 financing, which, as former village president candidate John O’Hara put it,
“We’re selling visas to foreign residents.”
The Federally-approved financing device allows foreigners to invest $500,000 in a project like the SportsPlex and get a visa, as long as enough jobs are created. For the amount of money involved, there must be 353 Full-Time Equivalent jobs created.
O’Hara summarized the financial arrangement like this:
“So, there’s no taxpayer risk for the EB-5 bonds, no taxpayer risk for the Recovery Zone Bonds.
“So, the only risk for the taxpayers is the off-site improvements.”
Village President Smith replied, “That’s right.”
The $18 million in county board-approved Federal stimulus bonds is being used “only as a start-up mechanism.”
It was also described as “a bridge loan.”
The off-site improvements include a promise by the village board to provide sewer and water to the property. Current Lakewood sewer and water lines are about two miles away, so it may be cheaper to build on-site treatment and water facilities.
“The village has made a commitment to provide sewer and water,” Village Administrator Catherine Peterson explained.
A man asked why the SportsPlex was not being built on the east side of Route 47.
Porter replied there were three reasons:
- “the availability of land (on the west side of the road)”
- “it’s in the center of the county”
- “it would be in the village of Crystal Lake (if it were on the east side of Rt. 47)”
Financial information for the private enterprise was not revealed.
Stressed several times was
“This is all equity financing.”
Eventually, $36 million is being sought from E-5 financing, while $4 million in equity is being sought elsewhere.
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More illustrations here.