Crystal Lake Pays $1.8 Million To Settle Condemnation Suit Against 15 Vulcan TIF Acres

First photo published on McHenry County blog in the story that started McHenry County Blog.

Despite promising not use its condemnation powers to obtain land from the Vulcan Lake/Route 14 Tax Increment Financing district, the Crystal Lake City Council voted Tuesday night to pay Vulcan Materials $120,000 an acre to settle such a suit.

$1.8 million in total.

When the TIF district was first being discussed, yours truly asked the council how they were going to develop the property without having road access to it. McHenry County Blog even had a story on the problem.

The council sat mute.

While the city owned part of the road where the old train engine used to be at the entrance on Route 14, the farther back toward the gate that one went, the less of the road the city owned. At the gate between Harris Bank and Crystal Lake Tire, if my memory serves me correctly, city ownership was restricted to less than two feet of the road.

Vulcan traded the pit for permission to mine under Three Oaks Road, something that the Algonquin Township Road Commissioner Del Miller had refused to do as long as that road was under his jurisdiction.

The day after the road was closed, I have been told the traffic on Route 14 went up 10%.

By not including key parcels in the deal it cut with the city back some twenty years go, Vulcan stockholders will be $1.8 million richer as a result of Tuesday’s city council decision.

I had not looked at the council agenda when I linked Monday to all of my articles on Mayor Aaron Shepley’s repeatedly promising that the city would not use its eminent domain power against Vulcan Lakes TIF property owners.

Let’s look at the denials that condemnation suits would be filed.

The first time I heard Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley said no condemnation was November 2, 2005. That was the night of the TIF hearings for the Main Street and Vulcan Lakes projects. Here’s what he said:

“I can say this. At no time has this city council considered…using our condemnation authority in any TIF we have contemplated. If property owners have that concern, they are false.”

Thanks to the DVD of the October 10, 2006, City Council workshop meeting, I can provide you with Shepley’s words and, for five bucks, you can see him speak them:

“We already promised we would not use condemnation in this project.”

The then two-term lawyer-politician couldn’t have gotten much clearer than that, could he?

But it gets better.

January 8, 2006, the Northwest Herald quoted Shepley:

“I stand by what I said before.

“The answer then, and is now, no…. People on Route 14 should not be concerned. It was not our plan in creating the [tax increment financing] district necessarily to go on some sort of condemnation binge. Nothing about that has changed.”

The cut line under Shepley’s picture in the NW Herald said,

“Aaron Shepley, Crystal Lake Mayor said the city would not condemn private property.”

October 10, 2006 Shepley had this conversation with Springfield-based developer Bill Cellini, who, according to his hometown paper is mentioned in the Tony Rezko indictment.

Here’s what was said:

Cellini – “I don’t believe that we can right out of the box say that’s something that could be acquired by our group, unless, of course, the city is interested in, in, in acquiring it.”

Shepley – “No, we already promised we would not use condemnation authority for this project, (chuckle) so, ah”

Cellini – “I don’t think you would have to use condemnation to probably (chuckle) buy it,”

Shepley – “Right.”

Here’s the long version:

But, it gets better.

January 2, 2007, Daily Herald reporter Chuck Keeshan discovered three condemnation suites against Vulcan Lands, Inc., at the McHenry County courthouse?

Three condemnation suits against Vulcan Lands, Inc. on, catch this, August 8, 2006.

Before what I think was the last time Shepley promised there would be no condemnation suits.

Shepley told reporter Keeshan that the land needed to gain access to the Vulcan Lakes project was “pencil-thin.”

As I mentioned above no one can say Crystal Lake officials did not know about the Vulcan Lakes access problem before the Tax Increment Financing district was contemplated.

But why did Shepley repeatedly insist there would be no condemnation?

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