County Board again overrides ZBA and Zoning findings

At its June 22 meeting, by a vote of 24-3, the Winnebago County Board approved property owner Brad Oler’s map amendment request. The amendment rezones more than 6 acres at 13843 Tallackson Rd. in Laona township from agricultural district to rural agricultural. Rural agricultural zoning allows residential development.

This vote discarded the Zoning Board of Appeals denying the request by a vote of 3-2, while the Zoning Committee recommended denial by a vote of 7-0. The property’s land evaluation and site assessment (LESA) score apparently contributed to their decision.

At its last meeting, the County Board also overturned those bodies’ findings on the 123-acre Dyn Cannell planned community development in Rockton Township by a 19-4 vote, with five County Board members absent.

Stanley Campbell, conservation chairman for the BlackHawk Sierra Club, said: “We are opposed to this County Board bending over and acquiescing to developers’ influence. It’s a bad precedent. This means you are going to have rural land going willy nilly to development. Urban sprawl here could make Chicago development look like a state park. It’s going to affect the quality of life for everyone.”

According to the American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service revamped an Orange County, N.Y., land classification system. That revised system—with original site assessment criteria—spawned the LESA score.

Winnebago County Board member Pete MacKay (R-5) said basing “anything on a LESA score is ludicrous.”

MacKay questioned Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals and Zoning Committee members’ judgment. According to MacKay, even Laona Township officials were curious about opposition to the proposed map amendment.

County Board member Jim Webster (R-2) said, “He (MacKay) has never liked the LESA score.”

Webster said the proposed map amendment wasn’t consistent with the county’s land use plan. He admonished MacKay for his comments about both the Zoning Board of Appeals and Zoning Committee. He said MacKay should respect those members’ expertise.

MacKay put his support behind property owner George H. Anderson’s map amendment request, which would rezone 2978 Rockton Rd. in Rockton Township from agricultural priority to rural agricultural.

“I think we’d be doing this citizen and every other taxpayer a favor,” he said.

This time, not everyone agreed with MacKay. The County Board defeated the proposed map amendment by a vote of 3-24. County Board member Dave Yeske (R-2) was among those who voted against it. Yeske noted Rockton Township was against the map amendment.

Yeske said despite the moniker, the “rural agricultural” designation doesn’t protect farmland. According to Yeske, that zoning classification creates residential areas.

The Township filed a legal objection, according to county documents. Because of the legal objection, the proposed map amendment needed a super majority—21 “yes” votes out of 28—to pass.

Before the Anderson request was approved by a vote of 21-6, County Board member Pearl Hawks (D-6) wondered why the Zoning Committee recommended denial of Allen and Robin Miller’s request for a zoning map amendment. The Millers wanted to rezone 5 acres at 7811 Judd Rd. in Pecatonica township from agricultural priority to rural agricultural.

According to County Board member Chris K. Johnson (R-4), “there was a lot of negativity in the air.” Johnson said controversy about recent developments fueled that negativity.

But Hawks said, “We cannot vote on speculation,” adding feelings shouldn’t influence decisions.

County Board member Gary Jury (R-3) said consistency doesn’t seem either the Zoning Board of Appeals or Zoning Committee’s strong suit. According to Jury, “a lot of zoning is just common sense.”

County Board member Tom Owens (R-1) and neighbors and all area governmental units supported the Millers’ request.

From the june 28-July 4, 2006, issue

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