Yesterday McHenry County Blog tried to present the views of those who testified about the new watershed manual proposed for Crystal Lake during the public comment period.
Today this is an attempt to lay out what the council members said after that public comment.
I’ll admit to thinking this would slide though the city council like a curling stone on Olympic ice.
Although there were questions from council members during watershed consultant Gary Schaefer’s presentation, I’ll start this report at the end of the public comments.
Shepley framed the discussion by saying,
“Action is not the approval or wholehearted acceptance. It is to instruct the city attorney to draft an ordinance. There’s one more step.”
He referred to the “parallel act of monitoring, financing and enforcement.”
Shepley must have added something, because my notes show Thorsen adding,
”Then why don’t I have that in front of me.”
Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller said, “Included in that same ordinance should be enforcement, funding mechanisms” and maybe more.
“I know that Gary is waiting there to tell us what the funding mechanism is,” Mueller continued, referring to City Manager Gary Mayerhofer. “There has to be some way that we know we have the ability to monitor these things.
“You’re exactly right,” Mayerhofer replied. “We want assurances in the manual and in the ordinance (that give us a confidence level on both enforcement and funding mechanisms).”
Shepley interjected that there were separate chapters on soil erosion, construction and maintenance.
“We have to make sure we have the ability to maintain and fund the monitoring.
“It should not be on the backs of the taxpayers of Crystal Lake.”
The city manager told of talking to McHenry County College about such guarantees and suggested a Special Service Area assessment or adding the extra cost to water bills for any residential developments.
Mueller seemed insistent that the enforcement and funding be put in the same ordinance as the watershed ordinance.
”I got the impression from Aaron this would be in the same ordinance,” she continued.
“By no means is tonight the end of the road,” Shepley said, throwing my initial impression at what would happen at the meeting out the window.
“There are more steps in the road that will allow due diligence before we adopt a motion to give this the teeth of an ordinance.”
Then, seemingly trying to see if his impression of the developing consensus were accurate, Shepley pointed out that proceeding would be “senseless if we’re not agreeable to the general tenants in this ordinance.”
“I don’t think there is any substantive (disagreement),” Thorsen said, suggesting that George Boulet’s proposal to require a search for drainage tiles within a 50-foot radius of any storm detention pond.
Schaefer agreed that was a good suggestion.
Thorsen pushed on the “funding in perpetuity” issue.
“I’d be willing to be (we agree) Shepley said.
“Is there a consensus regarding funding in perpetuity?”
“My concern is that we don’t want to create something that’s very good in theory…but stuff could be going on that’s harmful,” Councilwoman Cathy Ferguson said.
“I don’t want to leave us in a situation where something fails,” she continued.
“I don’t want it to be years before we can do anything…to correct the problem if we see a problem,” Ferguson explained referring to the time it takes litigation to make it way through the court system.
“As we move to enforcement, that’s outside of the design manual,” Schaefer pointed out.
Blake Hopkins and Ralph Dawson had no questions at this point. Councilman Dave Goss did not attend the meeting.
Shepley then asked Schaefer questions brought up by me, among others.
It was brought out that development in the watershed will increase the flow of water into Crystal Lake and that water runs into Crystal Lake faster than it runs out. It was coming in during August at 25-40 cubic feet per second, Schaefer estimated, but going out at only 15 cubic feet per second.
There was discussion of Cove Pond, which is almost the same elevation as the part of Crystal Lake it drains and the role of North Shore Drive in the flooding.
“The only solution to Cove Pond is to increase the outflow to the lake,” Mueller observed.
At this point Schaefer dropped this little bombshell:
”The big problem with the North Shore is that you’d probably ever let it be developed at least to the densities there (now).”
“My only goal is to protect the watershed,” he continued.
Shepley then asked whether adopting the manual or doing nothing would “put the watershed in greater danger.”
Thorsen seemed to take offense.
“No one is talking about doing nothing.
“Let’s talk about doing it right.”
“I know there was talk of moving North Shore Drive,” Mueller said, asking if there was a reason “other than money” that it wasn’t done.
“I think that’s it,” City Engineer Eric Lecuyer replied.
“I brought that up and I had to run for the woods,” Dawson remembered.
“Why would I want to have (City Attorney) John (Cowlin) draft an ordinance for this that I have no enforcement? How do I see the future?” he asked seeming to give McHenry County College the benefit of the doubt because it was a governmental entity.
He then spoke as if he thought Ferguson disagreed with his position. Ferguson replied somewhat sharply and Shepley said, “Let’s move on.”
“I think Mrs. Ferguson and I can discuss this any time we want,” Dawson replied as Shepley tried to cut him off.
“Why don’t we have the rest of it at the same time?” Dawson continued. “I see nothing wrong with that.
“I’m going to want to see more of this brought to the table.”
“I think we need the implications before we pass an ordinance we can’t enforce,” Mueller added.
”Like any good took, it’s only as good as its implementation. It think this gets into a planning (aspect more) than anything else.
“I think we need to take a step back and see the grand plan.”
Hopkins was elected after serving on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
One thing is certain. There is no master plan for development on the water shed. The MCC baseball stadium revealed first on McHenry County Blog on March 12th was the first significant construction proposed on the watershed.
(Want to have some fun? Type “Baseball stadium” into the search engine on the top of McHenry County Blog and 80-some articles will appear. Two days later, Mayor Aaron Shepley was quoted in the Northwest Herald’s first story
as knowing all about the up until then secret baseball stadium proposal, which originated, come to find out, at city hall with City Manger Gary Mayerhofer.)
But, I digress.
Hopkins also asked about the impact on Lippold Park.
Schaefer’s reply: “I don’t believe there would be any damage to Lippold.”
“I hope we don’t take any action tonight,” Thorsen then interjected. “I would hope to God we don’t.”
The mayor then went into defensive mode.
You’ll have to wait until later to read about how he didn’t think people were “crazy” to be thinking there’s some connection between consideration of the watershed ordinance and MCC’s baseball stadium zoning request…although, of course, he, like college officials rarely refer to the proposal as a baseball stadium proposal.
The up-until-then silent attorney then revealed:
“Generating an ordinance is going to take some time.”
The council will have the issue on its agenda on September 18th, but the attorney said it would probably take until October to produce an ordinance to vote upon.
“There’s still some input out there,” Thorsen said.
“There will be further opportunity for public comment,” Shepley replied.