Watershed Shoot Out at Crystal Lake’s OK Corral Seems Preferred Route to MCC Board President George Lowe

A belligerent McHenry County College Board President George Lowe did his best to suck up all the oil that a peacemaking MCC President Walt Packard spread in anticipation of a re-approach to Crystal Lake zoning authorities for permission to build upon up to 50% of the college’s watershed property, including the optioned 56-acre Gilger property.

After a discussion of the college’s master plan by MCC official Brian Sager, who doubles as Woodstock Mayor, and how there may be 1,000 more August 2009 students in the pipeline at area high schools, the discussion moved to the property next door.

Sager praised it, especially “should a train station be established in Ridgefield that will have a great impact on this location.”

Kathy Plinske then started talking about percentages of college land with and without the Gilger purchase.

After his staff laid the groundwork, Packard put on the table

“whether it is in the best interest of the college to purchase the Gilger property. I turn to the board to see where we stand on this.

”Lowe began calmly enough,

“We’ve asked for 50%. I think we still need 50%. We cannot just sit here and do nothing. We’ve already filed the paperwork.”

The paperwork was buying an legal notice ad that will appear in today’s Northwest Herald saying the college will be at the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Board on February 6th with hopes of going to the city council on Feb. 19th.

The ad was placed without prior board approval.

“It’s not a Planned Unit Development,” Packard stressed.

“I think we have to ask for the variance on the watershed,” Lowe continued.

“I think the 5-year plan (which had been discussed earlier without audience members being able to see any part of it) shows we have the necessary resources to buy that property,” Packard explained.

“I think we can get from the city council what we need. I think there’s a consensus that we proceed.”

Board attorney Sandy Kerrick pointed out that two said that they would vote for it. (I was unsure whether she was talking about council members or planning commission members, but, considering she all the planning commission members opposed the baseball stadium plan, I believe she was referring to council members.)

“Do you want a consensus?” Trustee Carol Larson asked.

“No, we’ve already filed the paperwork,” Lowe replied.

Then came the “my way or the highway statement.”

“Either they want the campus here or they don’t. It’s their ballgame. Pardon the pun.”

This doesn’t incorporate any PUD,” Packard said, jumping in, trying to lower the tone of the rhetoric.

“We have to have some guarantee we can use the property,” Lowe continued.

“A lot of people on the zoning board and at least five on the council agreed we had met the requirements with the watershed,” Kerrick pointed out.

She said she wanted to talk to Crystal Lake City Attorney John Cowlin today.

“It’s strictly on one variation (to) impervious(ness) on the watershed.”

“Whatever we do will require a PUD,” Packard added. “They already said we can do this much. Anything we do to Gilger will be 10-15 years out.

“(We are) try(ing) to see we have access to Ridgefield Road and be close to the rail stop to make it easy for them to get from the (train station),” the college president continued.

“McHenry County College is presently (identified) as a watershed district. It has to be by a PUD. It is black and white.

“We really didn’t do the last one that way..

“I don’t anticipate there would be any problems with regular buildings,” Kerrick continued.

“Do you believe the college should purchase this property?” Packard asked. “If the city says 50%, would you say, ‘Yes?””

“Probably yes,” Lowe answered.

“I want some assurance we get what we want,” Larson interjected.

“If we don’t have very clear direction from the city (doesn’t think she would be in favor of the purchase.) I would assume the city would approve 50%,” Trustee Barbara Walters added.

Trustee Donna Kurtz said she had heard some members of the zoning commission say, “If I knew this was for education only, I would vote for what you want.”

“We have a right to have that voted up or down,” Kerrick stated.

And, if it fails, “Mr. Gilger will have to re-zone his own land for a subdivision or whatever,” the lawyer continued.

“The only issue on the 50% coverage is whether we can do 50% without (damaging) the watershed.”

“I think there’s a good (chance) they’ll make that caveat,” Kurtz said.

“What I’ve heard is that if it’s education specific, they’ll be for it.”

Lowe then turned up the heat again:

”If they want caveats, I’m not for it.

“The city council all heard what (we presented). It’s about education. If they didn’t get it, that’s their problem.

”If Crystal Lake doesn’t see…then this will happen somewhere else in the county,” Walters added.

“I want 50% or no deal!”

Lowe emphasized.

Walter agreed.

“I think we can keep our attention on purchasing this piece of property,” college President Packard said calmly.

“Will you allow us the variance?” suggesting the council should look at what is on the property now.

“…for whatever the college deems appropriate for its campus,” Lowe said, finishing Packard’s sentence.

“(The question is) whether we have the engineering data to prove we won’t endanger the lake,” Kerrick said.

And, then Kerrick dropped what unknown folks at city hall had told her:

”Right now what the city is suggesting we do is concentrate on this.”

“These people are essentially obliged to follow up.”

That, of course, does not reveal what the next step would be.

“HWAC (including the baseball stadium) is off the table at the moment. Is that clear?” Trustee Scott Summers stressed.

“Yes,” Packard replied.

“I am not as concerned (about) the 50% as some other members,” Summers said, saying he trusted future trustees.

“I would rather not be going into a zoning hearing having it turn into a showdown,”

he continued.

Again trying to reach consensus, Packard asked, “My sense is that you want us at least to try to get it zoned.”

He pointed out that the time line required that the legal ad be put in the paper yesterday morning (before getting board approval).

“(Going from) 20% to 50% (is) a lot of coverage,” Kerrick said.

“It’s imperative to get the 50%. If we have grown this much in 40 years, think of how much we’ll grow in the next 40 years,” Walters said. “If we’re not going to plan on building on this (property, we’ll build elsewhere.)”

Then something new and completely different popped up in the discussion:”

It may be the thing we have to do is become a residential campus. It hasn’t worked elsewhere.”

Only Harper College has tried to convert from a junior college to a four-year institution.

“We want what we want, but we have to maintain that level of respect,” Kurtz said.

And the board adjourned into secret session.

Tomorrow, what the board and three outsiders did at that closed session.

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