The McHenry County Board vote was 15-8 to extend the date to December 31st for the McHenry County SportsPlex, which will be straddle Pleasant Valley Road on land that is to be annexed to Lakewood once the developers buy it.
According to County Board Chairman Ken Koehler’s count, ninety-two people signed in to speak against the SportsPlex, the only stimulus loan for which there was audience participation. Three supported it on the sign-in sheet.
The comment period was dominated by opponents to the Lakewood development. All were from the neighborhood, although one woman was from two miles west on Pleasant Valley Road.
But, first Lakewood Village President Erin Smith got to make her pitch.
“We are pretty far along in this process.
“There are ongoing discussions about traffic,” she explained. “ I spent almost three hours with 100 residents (one recent night).
“I understand the residents do not want development in their areas,” she continued, but explained that the use is “consistent with the 2020 plan,” plus existing boundary agreements.
Of all the possible uses of the property, Smith argued that this “has the most gentle impact to surrounding neighbors.”
She noted that the SportsPlex proposal is “not only promises to increase jobs, it is required for the private funding, private equity with no taxpayer dollars at risk.”
Bob Saiz led off the opposition.
“I highly doubt the economic benefit.”
Charles Russell was next.
After noting that not much about the SportsPlex is on the the Village of Lakewood’s web site, he pointed to its “Frequent Asked Questions” web site page.
Jim Vaccaro spoke of a letter from Al Stenstrom that had been sent to all county board members.
“This has so many holes in it that it could be referred to as a ‘Swiss cheese’ project.”
Referring to the EB-5 investments to be made by foreign investors seeking a faster path to citizenship, Vaccaro observed,
“If (the jobs don’t show up), the developer keeps the money and the (visitors) go home.”
Sharon Bills, who has two special needs children, expressed her concern about the increase in traffic of over 1000 vehicles.
“I had a brother who was hit (by a car),” she explained.
“My concern’s that it has encroached into a residential area.” She characterized it as “a hodgepodge development in three sections,” while asking for disapproval of the bond extension.
“I represent a large number of registered voters,” letter writer Al Stenstrom said to County Board members.
He pointed to the 110 people in the board room and said twice as many could not make it to today’s meeting.
Then he asked,
“Who does not feel that this can succeed?”
Most of the people in the audience raised their hands.
Len Tripoli also referred to Lakewood’s Frequently Asked Questions, which he pointed out said the Lakewood proposal cannot be compared with the sports complexes in Orland Park, Barrington and Libertyville.
He pointed out that the McHenry County SportsPlex will own their own teams.
He contended “independent research into attendance and job creation has not been done.”
Light pollution was the topic of Steve Lynn.
“We’re going to be sitting on our decks looking at that great glow in the sky.”
Joe Villarrealo moved from Schaumburg to get away from congestion.
“I’m afraid we’re going to end up like Schaumburg,” he said. “I want serenity.”
He added, “They say they’re going to bring in teams. It’ll have nothing to do with our kids.”
Villarrealo added that he had checked with Huntley and Crystal Lake.
“Crystal Lake doesn’t want it built.”
He said Crystal Lake had 8 empty soccer fields.
“We don’t need another 20-some fields unless they’re going to bring in teams from the outside.
“It’s total overkill, like going after an ant with a bazooka.
“I believe Lakewood is getting bad information. Lakewood’s trying to get revenue out of this and it’s going to end up costing them.”
Lindy Sander is the neighbor who lives two miles west of the proposed facility.
“The $18 million question is, ‘Is this proposal realistic?’
“We fully realized a long time ago that that corner is going to be developed.”
She then asked for a show of hands of those supporting development of what is the intersection of two state highways. About half raised their hands, she reported.
“To stretch this another mile down Pleasant Valley Road and down Hamilton is not in the best interests of the residents.
‘”It is the McHenry County Board’s job to protect (the county’s ambiance), the country living we fight for.”
Kathy Francis was next.
She was “concerned about the funding model.”
She supported development at the corner, but warned that the environmental damage “will be irreversible.”
People “know they can’t get home at night. Please let us delay the vote,” she requested.
“How many signatures would you need on a petition to show the majority of citizens don’t want this SportsPlex?” she asked, but Koehler indicated she should not expect an answer during comment time, that it was not a debate.
The comments had reached the thirty minute time allowed by the Rules, so the Chairman asked if there were a motion to extend it. There was and it passed on a voice vote.
Next up by Keith Kamper, a 19-year resident.
He argued there were “far too many questions to go forward on this thing.”
Kamper then cited statistics form Barrington’s, Libertyville’s and Orland Park’s sports complexes.
He pointed to “16 full-time jobs in the three sportsplexes.”
Next in line was former Lakewood Village President Julie Richardson, recently appointed as a village trustee.
She pointed out that the board was “not here to consider the merits. We have jumped through every hoop we possibly could.”
What was being considered by the board was “exactly the same as when yo approve it.
“We really believe this will be an environmental showcase.
“We have the chance to improve greatly the traffic flow in this county.”
“Put yourself in our shoes,” Keri Decard pleaded.
“How would you feel?
“Don’t do to us what you would not do to yourself.”
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Tomorrow – What the County Board members said during debate.