Woodstock Council Approves Baseball Stadium, Gravel Mining 6-1

With only councilman Richard Ahrens voting in opposition, the Woodstock City Council approved a special use permit for gravel mining across Route 14 from Centegra Hospital down to Lily Pond Road.

A privately financed minor league baseball stadium promoted by Mark Houser and Peter Heitman will be built northeast of Lake Shore Drive and Route 14.

The third of the threesome who showed up at a secret meeting of the McHenry County College Board in March of 2007, Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee, only to duck out the back door of the board room, was also present for Woodstock’s public meeting.

The stated plan is to have baseball games starting in May of 2010, but when the council was discussing how the 38 acres to be occupied by the stadium would be conveyed to the city ownership if a stadium were not completed within five years of approval of the rezoning, Houser asked for an extra five months.

If a stadium is not completed by May of 2014, the city would get the parcel.

So, two years if all goes well and five if there are hitches.

In the meantime, Merryman Aggregates will be mining gravel, stockpiling enough each year to provide what the firm thinks it can sell.

Tom Zanck, attorney for the proposal, and others kept calling the operation by other names, e.g., “aggregate extraction.”

Members of the newly renamed McHenry County Defenders, now, the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County complained of the fast track for the re-zoning. The report from the McHenry County Soil and Water Conservation District had just arrived Monday and had not been reviewed by city staff.

Those wishing to slow down the approval process pointed out that it should have been ready before the Planning Commission had reviewed the petitioners’ plan.

Right before the vote, starting at 12:42 AM, Mayor Brian Sager read the report’s executive summary.

In his summation, Sager reported that 41 citizens had contacted him prior to the council meeting had been “strongly in favor.” One was distinctly opposed and two others wanted to make sure certain questions were answered.

Ahrens opposition centered on the far eastern parcel in the proposal.

It fronts on Lily Pond Road, which is where the gravel trucks would leave the property.

Ahrens thought the highest and best use would be something other than the county fair and exhibitions.

Several members had made lists of pros and cons. The pros obviously were considered more persuasive for the six voting in favor of the re-zoning. (Except for the mayor, they are listed in alphabetical order. Picture are in seating order, from left to right with the exception of Ahrens.)

Mayor Brian Sager
Councilwoman Julie Dillon
Councilwoman Maureen Larson
Councilman RB Thompson
Councilman Mike Turner and
Councilman Ralph Webster

But they didn’t agree with the proposal without placing upwards of 50 conditions, a couple of which were strongly disputed by the petitioners.

One was the citing of a state law which said that the city could impose a ticket tax.

When Houser objected, city attorney Richard Flood pointed out that they could take it out, but this council could not bind future council in such a matter. And, since it was in the state law anyway putting it in the document did not harm to the petitioner.

Houser finally agreed.

More contentious was a city proposal which would allow levying an extraction tax. Merryman wanted his surety bond used first, if something were not done which he had promised. It turns out the city wanted to hold his business responsible for any infrastructure failures of the baseball promoters as well, which the council must have thought unfair, because they limited the liability to the mining operation.

Several times, Mayor Sager said that he didn’t want to end up with the problems that Woodstock’s neighbor to the east, aka, Crystal Lake, had with Vulcan Lakes.

Merryman did not propose a pit going beneath the water table and he proposed reclaiming the land as he moved from one part of the property to the next.

Ahrens, Thompson and Turner are running unopposed for re-election.

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On top you can see Equity One’s Mark Houser explaining his and partner Peter Heitman’s baseball stadium proposal. Below is Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee on the right and Heitman on the left. A shot of some of those attending the meeting follows. Mayor Brian Sager is seen directly below with dissenting Councilman Richard Ahrens below him to the left. The council members voting from the proposal are from left to right on the top row, RB Thompson, Maureen Larson and Mike Turner. On the next row you seen Ralph Webster on the left and Julie Dillon on the right. Mark Houser talks to his attorney Tom Zanck directly below. Woodstock City Attorney Richard Flood is below right. At the bottom is another picture of the audience, this time from the back of the room. All photos may be enlarged by clicking on them.


Woodstock Council Approves Baseball Stadium, Gravel Mining 6-1 — 3 Comments

  1. Good story, Cal. Did you stay up the rest of the night?

    Ohhh, a “secret” MCC Board meeting, did you say? That was a great story, too. Thanks for the link.

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