The Ridgefield Metra Deal

There’s nothing wrong with Northwest Herald reporter Kevin Craver’s front page article about Metra’s board voting to purchase McHenry County Board Chairman’s property in Ridgefield.

It contains much of the same information in these McHenry County Blog articles (listed in reverse order of publication):

Friday, 8-14-9 Metra Votes to Purchase Ridgefield Station Site

Friday, 8-14-9 Craig Steagall Unleashes Broadside Against McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Metra State Land Purchase

Friday, 8-14-9 Metra Scheduled to Approve Former Flowerwood Land for Station in Ridgefield This Morning

Thursday, 8-13-9 $1.5 Million Being Paid for Ridgefield Metra Site Half-Owned by McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler

Thursday, 8-13-9 Metra Transparency Worse than McHenry County College’s

Wednesday, 8-12-9 Ridgefield Businessman Takes on McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Proposed Metra Station

Friday, 8-7-9 Musings on the Proposed Ridgefield Metra Station

Wednesday, 8-5-9 Alexander Lumber’s Move to Ridgefield, Proposed Metra Station Implications

But the headline writer might make people think that Metra is “tentative” about the deal.

That appointed board is not.

If the City of Crystal Lake annexes the land and agrees to manage the parking lot, it’s a done deal.

There may be a real fight on the Crystal Lake Zoning and Planning Board and the Crystal Lake City Council, but that will probably be over whether the site makes sense from a regional planning perspective.

That is a very real question, in my opinion.

Is this the first step into turning Country Club Road north toward McConnell Road into a commercial and industrial strip?

Will Crystal Lake annex all of Downtown Ridgefield?

Will the city council decide that there is more sales tax revenue in a Walgreens or CVS than the antique shops on the triangular shaped land on the north side of the narrow part of Country Club Road that runs through Ridgefield?

Hey, the road has to be widened anyway,

That means the antique shops have to be demolished anyway, right?

Will the city use condemnation powers to take the land, as Cicero, Chicago and other cities have done in the name of economic development, or will a retail establishment agree to pay enough for the land that the present owners will willingly sell and, in return for appropriate zoning, “donate” sufficient right-of-way for a widened road?

Think massive development of that area isn’t being contemplated?

Then, consider this viewpoint, found in Marna Pyke’s Daily Herald article, by former Lake County Board Chairman, now a Metra board member, at Friday’s meeting:

“Metra Director Jim LaBelle, who represents Lake County, said he regretted there were no plans for housing next to the train station.

“‘It looks like a parking lot in the middle of the country,’ he said.”

As with the McHenry County College stadium fight, residents near the proposed Metra stop won’t carry much weight in City of Crystal Lake deliberations because they live outside the city limits. And considering the city’s unwillingness to annex the Crystal Lake Manor, which it complete surrounds, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for city officials to become interested in making current Ridgefield residents taxpaying citizens. (And, there wouldn’t be any advantage to the Ridgefield residents anyway, because there is no water and/or sewer required by the commuter parking lot.)

One argument those living outside of Crystal Lake might be able to develop is the same one used by stadium opponents–the covering of Crystal Lake’s watershed with a big asphalt parking lot.

757 parking spaces covered with an impermeable surface might move those interested in the health of the lake to action again.

And, since the biggest potential beneficiary is McHenry County College, a coalition might be built that contains both supporters and opponents of the college’s minor league baseball stadium.

Surely a station on the college’s (west) side of the railroad tracks would be more convenient and safer for students who might use the train to get to classes.

No one really knows how much use college students might make of such service. But planning for future growth at the college campus, which now is right across Ridgefield Road from the train tracks should receive serious consideration.

College officials I talked to knew of no contact about the suitability of the location from Metra since the parking lot site was selected January 5, 2009.

One told me she first learned of Metra’s selection “from reading the paper.”

The NW Herald article is posted as going up on its web site Tuesday, August 4th. I think it was printed on Wednesday, however.

So, a major question exists about why Metra kept it a secret from the public for seven months.

Why were there no public hearings on such a growth generator?

Why was this deal rushed through?

Why does the contract have a clause saying,

“Time is of the essence of this Agreement.”

How complete absurd, unless there is more than meets the eye.

Why is Metra paying so much more than the $67,000 an acre McHenry County College paid just last year for 57 acres down the road?

MCC negotiated its contract on the Gilger property at the top of the real estate boom.

Now McHenry County is in the canyon of the market.

Metra will not win the transparency award for 2009.

The paperwork given Metra board members indicates that Crystal Lake officials were in the know earlier than the public.

No change of policy there.

Remember the college stadium time line?

No knowledge of it appeared in the NW Herald until the day after McHenry County Blog broke the story. Then, Mayor Aaron Shepley filled the paper’s front page with its praise.

There will also have to be vote of the McHenry County Board, but it’s about money spent for roads when 84 Lumber was built after approval by the county board.

Without a favorable vote, the deal, as approved by Metra’s board, will not go through.
= = = = =
You see Devil’s Mound above on the left.

The canyon is in Idaho near Balanced Rock.

At the bottom is Balanced Rock. You can see a boy who has climbed up to it. This story reminds me of the apprehension that some might have that the rock might fall on them…or on us taxpayers.


The Ridgefield Metra Deal — 1 Comment

  1. Gee, I love how the McHenry County media works. Insert snicker here.
    Thanks for the coverage on this. This deal smells awfully funny.

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