Crystal Lake City Council Approves Commercial Development Along Route 14 Northwest of McHenry County College

Almost as usual, when the Crystal Lake City Council takes significant action, it does it late at night.

That was the case Tuesday night.

The council voted 5-1 to annex Ken Rawson’s Barton Stream subdivision and 85 commercial acres on Route 14. Brett Hopkins was the “No” vote, arguing that a comprehensive plan should be in place first. Ralph Dawson was absent.

The issue was framed by two Crystal Lakers who spoke during the public comment period.

McHenry County Conservation District trustee and Crystal Lake resident Nancy Williamson led off.

“It is opening the entire area for development,” she asserted.

Referring to the watershed manual, which had just been approved, Williamson said,

”It’s a pair of shoes, but you’ve got no clothes to go with it.”

She argued for waiting until the planning process, including public comment was completed.

Local long-time successful Realtor Gail Plunkett was next up.

“I think it would be a good addition,” she said.

“There are plans for two more big box stores where the (Woodstock) Super-Wal-Mart is.

“Single family residents along Route 14 will not be attractive to the consumer.”

Speaking to traffic predicted to be generated by the Turnberry subdivision west of the Crystal Lake Country Club, Plunkett, who lives one house south of Country Club Road said, “I don’t see any impact.”

“We have to look at this north corridor. It’s the keystone of future development.”

The two comments that I have put in boldface type pretty well delineated the debate.

There were detailed objections from the neighbors and lawyer/planner Jerry Davonport, who gave me the map I hope Google’s Blogger will allow me to post. Tomorrow the objections he raised will be covered in detail, along with some other observations about development north of Route 176.

There were plenty of comments from the council members.

“Conservation design is in direct conflict with one-acre lots,” Councilwoman Kathy Ferguson pointed out. Davonport argued for the latter.

“In terms with the commercial portion, I’m OK with that. They’re going to need some amenities up there.

“In terms of the townhomes, I’d like you to think of villas. I think it would be a better bridging of the design.”

“It’s not as late as usual,” Councilman Jeff Thorsen started out. It was 11:35 PM and the watershed ordinance and manual debate had just finished. That followed a long consideration of the zoning of Extreme Ford on Route 31 south of Route 176.

“We’ll see when you’re done with your comments,” Mayor Aaron Shepley, who has been at odds with Thorsen on the watershed ordinance, interjected.

“I don’t think there’s anyone sitting here who doesn’t think the Northwest corridor will be developed,” Thorsen said. “The question is, ‘How will it be developed?’”

Thorsen came down on the same side as Ferguson on the issue of one-acre lots versus clustered housing.

“I don’t think that’s what we want to see for this corridor.”

“The important thing is what Kathy bought up,” Brett Hopkins said. “I would go with the conservation plan overall (but the density is too high).

“As far as the commercial goes, I’ve been against commercial on this part of Route 14.

“What I don’t want to see is what happened on Randall Road, where you don’t see any delineation (between towns). This was open land (which provides a delineation between Crystal Lake and Woodstock).”

Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller also came out in favor of the conservation design approach.

“Are you going to have one-acre lots? Why even extend sewer out there, if you can have septic?” she asked.

“I think the commercial works for me on Route 14.”

“I also agree the smaller lots work better,” added Councilman Dave Goss. “From a design viewpoint, you parallel road to Route 14, you have double lots there. (It’s a) perfect place to put BMPs (Best Management Practices). I don’t care for them at all.

“I do agree that commercial is appropriate there.”

Attorney Joe Gottemoller summarized the project. One of the elements that motorists would be able to notice is that the part of Ridgefield Road that intersects with Route 14 north of McHenry County College would be moved slightly south so that it would be at a 90 degree angle to the state highway. The Rawson property would have a road coming into that intersection from the west.

“I do get a little nervous because of what Mr. Davonport pointed out,” Shepley said.

He told of knowing some of the neighbors, who had asked him if the subdivision wold mean they could get sewer and water.

“We’re never going to force annex a residence,” he emphasized.

“I think there are two sides to the coin,” the mayor continued.

“I think this is an appropriate area for development.”

Concerning conservation design, he suggested the homes be “cluster(ed) in the middle (to) preseve the open space on the outside.”

“There’s a wetland in the center,” Mueller pointed out.

“My only point is that we in Crystal Lake like to protect open space. It’s nice to look at.”

With regard to the townhomes, Shepley had “mixed emotions.”

“Close to the college, you probably couldn’t ask for a better location,” he said pointing out that students might rent them.

“This is largely not in our watershed.

“I agree with what Jeff said. If not commercial, then what?”

“Office has some of the same downsides.”

Shepley observed that on Randall Road Crystal Lake had to grow down to Miller Road or Lake in the Hills would grow up.

“I don’t think we have boundary agreement with Woodstock on Route 14,” Shepley added.

“Yes, we do,” someone stated.

‘If we want it to be pure open space, we buy it,” Shepley continued.

“The reality is that costs money. The way to get that money is raising taxes as long as we don’t own the property. The property owner has certain rights to develop that property.

[One thing that Shepley did not point out was that by re-zoning the property the city increased the value of the property considerably.]

“McHenry County College has just as many cars going in and out as any shopping center.

“I do not agree at all that it is appropriate to put residences there (backing up to Route 14, a suggestion of Davonport).

“When you come back with the site plan,” Shepley said to the developer, “you need to make sure the future landowners that are not going to be configured in a way that their property values are not negatively affected by the (rear) fence.”
He was referring, of course, to the neighbors who objected vehemently to the zoning approval of Extreme Ford on Route 31 south of Route 176 earlier in the council meeting.

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All images can be enlarged by clicking on them. The map is from Jerry Davonport, the satellite photo from Google. All pictures were taken previously.

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