The analogy is not perfect. I’ve never been a sports writer, so please cut me some slack.
And, the meeting didn’t get over until about 1 AM. Consideration of McHenry County College’s baseball stadium started at 6:20.
Councilmen Ralph Dawson, Brett Hopkins and Jeff Thorsen threw the three strikes with their “No” votes on the proposal to re-zone McHenry County College for a minor league baseball stadium.
Thanks to the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Committee’s unanimous rejection of the proposal, MCC needed a supermajority of five council votes for its ballpark to be considered a home run.
Former MCC Board President Donna Kurtz (Crystal Lake) rocked the meeting.
After saying she had voted for the Health & Wellness Center project, but now realized “the serious negative implications that this project will have for years to come,” she said,
“I was wrong to support this project, but you can prevent a bigger wrong.”
Kurtz said Scott Summers (Harvard), the man who replaced her as board president, agreed with her request for a rejection of the project’s zoning. The two expressed milder concerns at an MCC Finance Committee meeting two weeks ago.
She explained that the Schaumburg Flyers, a minor league baseball team “has not generated a positive cash flow for years.”
“In addition,” she continued, “the HWAC project third party assessment paid by MCC stated, ‘our experience is that these facilities and programs usually have a difficult time generating a positive cash flow.’ Building and maintaining this multi-million dollar revenue stream year in and year out for decades to come is an extraordinary high risk and very difficult endeavor.
“The city council is the only defense between an eventual tax increase for our city and county residents.”
Because Mayor Aaron Shepley allowed Crystal Lake residents to speak before those of us who live outside the city, it was uncertain whether Summers would be able to speak for himself, but, toward the end of the public comment period, he did.
Emphasizing he was speaking as a “private citizen,” he said he had “spent many hours looking and, most important, in receiving public commentary.
“In concept, I support (the project) if the numbers work and the associated land use mitigation can be achieved.
“If this concept works, it’s a way of defraying (the cost of some construction).
“I think the college has not done a good job of (and here my pen did not go as fast as Summers’ words), but he called for a 60-90 day period for public comment on the feasibility study, engineering plans, etc.
“If a grievous mistake has been made, I want to know.”
Applause followed his statement that there had been “very thorough and astute comments.”
Mayor Shepley admonished the audience for the demonstration of support for Summers, having said at the beginning that neither applause would be not be appropriate. He also insisted that everyone who wanted to talk sign up before the beginning of the public comment period.
When that started, Shepley announced that he would alternate between proponents and opponents in the public comment period.
Only one proponent from Crystal Lake stepped up, Mary Edwards, speaking first for herself and reading an effusive email of praise for all parts of the project from 88-year old George Wendt.
All the rest of the Crystal Lakers who spoke opposed the project. There were 20-30 of them.
When it came time for council comments, Dave Goss was first.
He concluded that the “uses are acceptable.”
On traffic, “I think this is an excellent report.
“We own the date,” he said, pointing out the work on traffic control and expansion of westbound Route 14 and other intersections the college had done with the police and other staff.
Concerning the watershed, “We have searched for partners to be in this with us on the watershed.”
He praised the park district for purchasing Sunset Park. He criticized the McHenry County Conservation District for not stepping up.
Goss said he would not vote for final approval until the Best Management Practices watershed manual was completed.
He also came up with a compromise on MCC’s request for permission to cover 50% of the not-yet-purchased 57 acres for which there are absolutely no plans except overflow parking.
His suggestion, which resonated with the four-vote majority?
50% coverage with impermeable material or the maximum allowed by the watershed ordinance at the time of development several decades away.
Second to pitch his opinion was Jeff Thorsen, who twice has successfully led the charge on improving the watershed manual, much to Mayor Shepley’s chagrin.
Thorsen was emphatic in his support of MCC.
Not only was he educated there, taking every business course offered before transferring to Northern Illinois University, but he actively supported all of its referendums.
Having established his pedigree, Thorsen criticized having to vote upon the zoning matter, which would be tied to the unapproved watershed ordinance, before the manual is made final.
“What if I’m the only one on this panel that vehemently disagrees with the manual?
“Then, I’ve trumped myself.
“For me, the dog is the watershed ordinance and the tail is the development.”
Thorsen also commented on the increase in traffic.
“We’re really kicking in at rush hour, if we’re (the ball team is) successful.”
Thorsen also commented at the financing of the project, which Shepley had said should not be discussed. Perhaps he was taking his cue from MCC President Walt Packard who mentioned financing in his initial presentation.
He said he would “have to have an understanding (of) where the contact money is going to come from.
He mentioned the 10% of various concessions and tickets that MCC would receive.
“If it doesn’t accumulate to $250,000…then the club makes up the difference.”
The effect on neighbors outside of the city was also a concern.
“Some people may like to live on Waveland; others like to live in the country.
“I really wish we could sop and take a second look on this issue.”
Thorsen then praised Kurtz and Summers.
“It takes a heck of a lot of guts for one public official, for two public officials to say, ‘Slow down a bit.’
“I think they’re great public servants and I want to thank them publicly.
Commenting on how McHenry County College got in what where it is on the baseball stadium and other projects being proposed, Thorsen observed,”
I don’t think they had the benefit of a public (commenting on the proposal).”
Next up was Ellen Brady Mueller, who attended the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings.
She spoke in favor of the project, emphasizing how it had improved since it was originally presented, (and ended up making the motion to approve it).
Urged laser lights, instead of fire works. (Neighboring horse farmers had complained how noise spooked their animals.) She took up the previous suggestion of Mayor Shepley that a baseline for current noise be determined and the zoning agreement include how much louder stadium activities could be.
Concerning traffic, Mueller said, “It’s a fabulous improvement.
“A fabulous opportunity for Crystal Lake,” she said, summing up. “I’m for it 100%.”
“The finance part of it is not our decision,” she added. “If the college did not do what it should have done before getting here, shame on them.”
Cathy Ferguson agreed with Mueller that the council should not consider whether the baseball team financing was feasible.
“I am gong to ask people to who have disagreements to talk to your college board members.
“Don’t place that on us,” she emphasized.
That was after she talked about the positives of the project.
“I think the college is going to do a lot of road improvements on a lot of different roads. It’s a limited impact for short periods of time.
“We need to trust our experts,” she said.
“It’s a family venue.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a (problem with alcohol.)”
“No one has talked about the side benefits…the restaurants, the stores, which were apparently discussed at “a strategic workshop a couple of years ago.”
Ferguson agreed with the suggestion made by Goss on how to deal with the MCC request to cover 50% of the 57 acres it wants to purchase.
The count was not 3-1 with Councilman Hopkins having made negative sounds at a previous meeting about the need for a plan for the watershed bringing hope to opponents that he would vote against the proposal.
With everyone in the room knowing Shepley’s strong support for the project, the tension was high as Councilman Dawson began to speak.
The strength of the opposition was emphasized by Councilman Ralph Dawson in explaining his final reason for opposing the proposal.
“I’ve never had as much public response on an issue as this—the Gay Games, not a call,” Dawson revealed. He talked about the number of emails he had gotten at his city email address.
“One of my jobs here is to represent the public. I’ve only had two people positive—all the rest were negative.”
Dawson’s complaints about the proposal also focused on the traffic.
“I’m not going to relent on that.”
So, now the count was 4-2.
One more vote would mean victory for the opponents.
Hopkins started with his concern about “the traffic issue.”
“I think you did the best you could,” he said before suggesting that he thought traffic was going to increase more than 2.5% per year.
“My gut tells me it could be more.
“I think more than anything else what we’re lacking is an overall plan. Not that I think you are doing anything wrong with what you’re doing.
“I want to be a pitcher, not a catcher,” Hopkins concluded before Shepley took over the microphone for his comments about 12:30.
As has been evident in the two meetings on the watershed manual, Shepley knows how to count.
He knew he didn’t have the necessary five votes.
Nevertheless, he reiterated the arguments in favor of the MCC proposal for 15 minutes from 12:30 to 12:45 AM.
“Even if you’re a catcher, you’re in every play,” Shepley said, tying his remarks to Hopkins’ desire to be a pitcher.
“It’s better than being in right field.”
That, of course, was where Hopkins was while serving on the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission before being elected to the council this past spring.
Now he was a player with a planner’s outlook.
Shepley then took off after the two college trustees who dared throw a monkey wrench into the well-oiled gears of his zoning approval machine.
“I’m really scratching my head. I’m really on the opposite end of what Mr. Thorsen said.
He talked of how the two trustees were “putting the Crystal Lake City Council in an untenable position.
“It’s disappointing to me personally.
“We’re only getting one side of the story.”
(And, as you can imagine, I was thinking” “Right. The college refuses to release the feasibility study upon which it made its decision to go forward with the baseball team idea.”)
“You said we’re the last hope for stopping this project,” Shepley continued. (That’s not right.) There are seven board members.
“You are convincing the wrong people. I don’t have the information the members of this board has.
“I do feel somewhat put upon.
“There is not a single member of this board that would go out to undermine the democratic process. You respect the process.
“There was a process for the college. It was followed,” Shepley asserted.
“(If this does not work out financially,) I can tell you if the taxpayers of McHenry County will hold you to be accountable,” he said to the college board members, all but one of which attended the meeting.
“But that’s their responsibility. We’re here for land planning decisions, but that’s it.
“It does greatly disappoint me. “I don’t get it. It’s a head scratcher.”
Noting that the council had been in session since 5:30, he said, “I don’t think anyone can criticize us.”
And, then, “Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Let me ask,
“What if we don’t approve it?”
Shepley then reiterated the arguments for voting “Yes.”
I’m pretty sure he misstated this one:
”The college has come up with a way to finance 75% of what this really is. Without the baseball stadium, they don’t have a flow of income. They did it in a way to avoid asking us to raise taxes.”
Surely, 75% of the financing for this deal is not coming from the baseball stadium.
He then criticized the promoters of a baseball stadium in Harvard for trying to undermine the chances of a team in Crystal Lake.
What Shepley did not say was that the Harvard promoters are building their own stadium. They are actually putting their money at risk to build that stadium. MCC baseball promoter Peter Heitman is not.
But, back to Shepley’s comments.
“This is not about tax dollars coming to Crystal Lake. This is about bringing an amenity to Crystal Lake.
“I guarantee you there are other communities that will accommodate a baseball team.
“What if it goes a couple miles down the road and settles in Woodstock?” he asked, pointing out that Crystal Lake would have the same problems with none of the benefits.
“That’s my position,” he concluded.
Then Mueller made a motion, knowing it would fail.
Shepley then tried to keep the measure alive by asking for a motion to reconsider, which he said could then be tabled.
I’ve been using parliamentary procedure since high school student council at Crystal Lake Community High School, but I still wanted to check out whether my memory of who was eligible to make a motion to reconsider was accurate.
I remember that only someone on the prevailing side can make such a motion.
The prevailing side consisted of Dawson, Hopkins and Thorsen.
I just typed in “prevailing side, Robert’s Rules” into Google and here’s what I found:
”Reconsider: Can be made only by one on the prevailing side who has changed position or view”
That’s from the summary page.
The motion was made by Mueller, who was not on the prevailing side. Had she been on the prevailing side, her motion to approve the zoning request would have passed.
I’m certainly not an attorney, but I think this effort to keep the MCC project alive has severe problems.
= = = = =
Each photograph can be enlarged by clicking on it.
On top are photos of the three Crystal Lake City Councilmen who voted against the MCC request to zone its property for a baseball stadium–Ralph Dawson, on the left, Brett Hopkins in the center and Jeff Thorsen on the right.
Next, there is a picture of MCC Trustee Donna Kurtz. Below her is MCC Board President Scott Summers. (All of the head shots are from prior meetings, except Summers’.)
Above the “MUST SIGN IN” sign is Mayor Aaron Shepley. The pictures of council members accompany their comments in this order: Dave Goss, Jeff Thorsen, Ellen Brady Mueller, Cathy Ferguson, Ralph Dawson and Brett Hopkins.
Another picture of Mayor Shepley follow.
The group shot of McHenry County College trustees shows them right before the zoning vote was taken. In the second row are Scott Summers and George Lowe. In the first row are Ann Miller, Carol Larson and Barbara Walters.
Below line photo credit line are two pictures after the meeting broke up, the first in council chambers and the second, ironically, in front of the “Finance” office in city hall’s entranceway.