Christiansen casts deciding vote against proposed drive-in

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478604920882.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Kelly Vecchio (R-7) was sworn in to replace Ray Graceffa, who resigned for health reasons.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11847860793026.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘County board members Dave Yeske (R-2) and John Sweeney (R-14) confer with Rick Pollack (R-13).‘);

After coming to a 12-12 tie on the County Board floor, a proposed drive-in theater in Seward Township will not be screening films this summer. Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) found himself on the bubble, and cast his vote to defeat the petition for a special-use permit to allow for an outdoor theater on the site of the former Ironwood Golf Center at Route 20 and Conger Road.

For weeks, neighbors of the proposed theater have voiced their concerns, ranging from noise and pollution to security and general upheaval of their rural environment. Traffic safety concerns, however, outweighed them all.

Tom Owens (R-1) urged his colleagues to vote “no” to the petition by Mike and Mia Kerz of Buffalo Grove.

“If you’re out there and look at the situation out there, the traffic becomes the obvious issue,” said Owens, who indicated he’d be supportive of the petition if there were some sort of traffic control at the intersection. “They will be bunching up, they will be taking chances that they would not normally take and, unfortunately, we probably will see some very bad accidents out there. …I, for one, cannot have that on my conscience.”

The Kerzes originally planned to re-open the Sunset Drive-In on Samuelson Road. Based on noise and proximity concerns of neighbors, the Rockford City Council voted down the proposed outdoor theater earlier this year.

One worried neighbor of the new site, Terri Lundberg, told board members: “Even if the exit was staggered, impatience would be common, and many would attempt crossing Route 20 at dangerous opportunities. It’s not a matter of if another fatality occurs, but a matter of when.”

Another opponent of the drive-in, Mike Johnson, made his third appearance before the board July 12, arguing board members had reneged on their intention to have a highway engineer study the intersection before coming to a vote. During the June 28 meeting, the County Board voted to lay over a vote on the petition until a report on the intersection is received.

“From a constituent’s standpoint, being brought up for a vote tonight, it appears that economic haste is more important than safety,” Johnson alleged. “I’m asking you, please study this matter, get a traffic study, make sure that intersection is safe.”

Pete MacKay (R-5) was also surprised the issue was being voted on so soon and asked why no study had been conducted first, as requested.

“I understand that it kind of got washed away in the Executive Committee,” MacKay said. “I think what is being created here is a major dangerous situation of dumping a bunch of traffic from Conger Road onto [West] State in the middle of the night when the traffic won’t be visible to eastbound traffic until they’re over the crest of the hill.”

Deputy State’s Attorney Gary Kovanda, however, explained bringing new evidence before the County Board would not be proper. Kovanda instead indicated new evidence would have to go back to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to be subject to cross-examination.

“It would be improper to start bringing in information that was not in the record,” Kovanda clarified. “Certainly, the board can send it back for a supplemental public hearing to take further evidence if you would like, but it wouldn’t be proper to start introducing things solely to the board.”

Kovanda warned such impropriety could be seen by the Kerzes as a violation of due process.

MacKay responded by arguing the traffic issue has been discussed all along and is, therefore, not new evidence. Based on Kovanda’s legal concerns, MacKay made a motion to send the matter back to the ZBA so a proper study can be conducted before a vote is taken.

Supported only by Mary Ann Aiello (R-9), Doug Aurand (D-3), Angie Goral (D-7), Paul Gorski (D-5), Pearl Hawks (D-6), Mel Paris (D-8) and L.C. Wilson (D-12), MacKay’s motion failed in an 18-8 vote.

Disappointed the board would not send the issue back to the ZBA for further study of safety concerns, Gorski asked, “I’m hoping then our County Board is ready to vote against this petition.”

Jim Webster (R-2) expressed doubt as to whether the County Highway Department even has the authority to study the intersection, and argued sending it back to the ZBA would only drag things out.

“I don’t think any more information one way or another is gonna have any impact on changing anyone’s mind in this room,” Webster said. “Vote it up, vote it down, but let’s vote on it and get it over with.”

Frank Gambino (R-14) said he was originally in favor of the proposal, but that traffic concerns changed his mind. Like Webster, Gambino wanted a vote that night.

“These petitioners deserve an answer,” Gambino pointed out. “Let’s get to it.”

Aurand explained the board is not against the idea of a drive-in theater, but that there are much safer locations in Winnebago County.

“You’re going to be endangering some of your citizens,” Aurand warned. “You’re just asking for a tragedy to happen.”

When the original motion finally came up for a vote, George Ann Duckett (D-12), John Ekberg (R-10), Karen Elyea (D-11), Dave Fiduccia (R-4), John Harmon (R-4), Bob Kinnison (R-10), Kyle Logan (R-3), Randy Olson (R-1), John Sweeney (R-14), Patti Thayer (R-9), L.C. Wilson (D-12) and Dave Yeske (R-2) cast votes in favor of granting the Kerzes a special-use permit.

With the matter deadlocked in a 12-12 tie, Chairman Christiansen cast the “no” vote that would call curtains on the proposed outdoor theater. A subsequent variance to waive paving requirements was also voted down.

Christiansen alleged the Kerzes had not responded to concerns about traffic.

“I’m a little disappointed at the petitioners,” Christiansen announced before casting his vote. “I haven’t seen them here for a couple meetings to try and deal with that.”

The Kerzes, however, told The Rock River Times they had presented a response to the board regarding traffic concerns.

Christiansen wants the proposal to go back to the drawing board for amendments addressing the traffic issue, suggesting the presence of state patrols at the intersection could be the answer.

Other notable County Board action included:

Resolution to amend purchasing code

Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) introduced a Resolution Requesting the Consideration of an Amendment to the Winnebago County Code Regarding the Spending of Funds.

Aiello wants the amendment to require a minimum of three proposals be reviewed before the county moves ahead with spending funds raised by the 1 percentage point Public Safety Tax. Aiello said her resolution is in response to the $288,000 allocated by the County Board in April for a case management software system aimed at synergizing area social services.

The system will track clients and prevent overlapping of services, but Aiello was quick to point out the proposal of non-profit Community Collaboration, Inc. ,was the only package presented to the board.

“They never went through Purchasing,” Aiello indicated. “They never went ahead and asked for any Requests for Proposal from anybody. It just kind of came from the chairman’s office.”

In May, the Rockford City Council committed $200,000 to the same program.

Social service agencies will be charged an annual licensing fee for the web-based virtual records room. Agencies who elect not to participate may risk losing future grants.

The licensing fees collected are expected to make Community Collaboration, Inc., self-sufficient within three years.

Board declares State's Attorney vacancy effective Aug. 10

Following news of the appointment of Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli (R) to the 17th Judicial Circuit Court bench, Chairman Christiansen read Logli’s letter of resignation to board members July 12.

Logli’s resignation will be effective Aug. 10—the same day his appointment to the bench takes effect.

“I have enjoyed immensely my nearly 21 years serving the people of Winnebago County as their State’s Attorney,” Logli stated, “and now look forward to serving them in a new capacity as judge of the Circuit Court.”

Deputy S

tate's Attorney Charles Prorok, attorney Phil Nicolosi and Rockford Legal Director Patrick Hayes have voiced interest in replacing Logli as state’s attorney. Logli has thrown his support behind Prorok.

Appointment made to fill Graceffa's vacancy

Rockford attorney Kelly Vecchio (R-7) was sworn in to replace Ray Graceffa (R), who stepped down for health reasons.

“I look forward to working with all of you,” Vecchio said after being sworn in. “I’m very excited with the appointment, and I’m looking forward to this year.”

Vecchio is the daughter of Associate Judge Steven Vecchio. Her term expires in 2008.

Resolutions & ordinance approved

The County Board approved a Resolution Authorizing Settlement of a Claim Against the County of Winnebago Entitled Richard Penticoff Versus County of Winnebago in the amount of $21,676.40.

A Resolution Authorizing the Execution of an Engineering Services Agreement for Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) Funds with Willett, Hofmann & Associates, Inc. for Construction Engineering and Other Related Services was also approved. A related appropriation of MFT funds for construction and engineering costs also met with board approval. The services are related to work at the intersection of Centerville and Prairie roads, as well as at the intersection of Rockton and Dorr roads.

Board members also passed a Resolution Regarding the Expansion and Redevelopment of West State Street. The resolution serves to oppose turning portions of West State and Mulberry streets into one-ways.

An ordinance to add the position of Security Monitor in the Sheriff’s Department was approved by the County Board.


Karen Hoffman (D-11), Phil Johnson (D-8) and Dorothy Redd (D-6) were not present.

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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