Comments from McHenry County Historical Society Exec Kurt Begalka to the McHenry County Board:
I am here tonight to speak on behalf of the historic 1855 Coventry farmstead in Harvard – which this body landmarked nearly 18 months ago and then ignored.
The current owner, a Chinese company which has offered more lip service than action, is the latest in a parade of absentee owners since 2003 who have bought then abandoned the site on Harvard’s northern gateway.
And all the while, the building continues to deteriorate.
A site inspection by your own inspectors identified five repairs that require “immediate action.”
They include openings created by missing or impassable windows or doors, failing masonry walls, holes in the roof, foundation issues affecting a portion of the floor and missing sections of floor on the second level.
The attorney for the property owner, Edward Harvard Holdings, would lead you to believe that the issues cited by your trained staff are overstated and that this multi-national company is not responsible for making repairs caused by the negligence of previous owners.
However, the current owners also have failed to offer any blueprint for buttoning up the structure – even things as simple as replacing doors and windows to keep the elements at bay.
If you or I owned this property, it would be red-tagged in a heartbeat.
But vague promises of something “big” have forestalled any attempt at stabilizing and then restoring this farmhouse and barn.
Instead, the company is attempting to somehow link progress on this little farmhouse to the future of a 1.5 million square foot manufacturing plant.
With all due respect, that is ridiculous.
A resolution recommended by the county’s Historic Preservation Commission would compel the property’s owner to work with the county and city of Harvard to develop a framework for repairs.
But this resolution and the future of the Coventry farm remains in limbo – postponed repeatedly, most recently until November 28 by the Planning, Environment & Development Committee.
So why should you care?
More than this one historic site is at stake here.
The integrity of the entire McHenry County Historic Preservation Ordinance is being called into question.
Years ago, Dennis Sandquist reminded me that an ordinance is only as effective as a government’s willingness to enforce it.
Tonight, it my responsibility to remind you.