County Board delays zoning change vote

Winnebago County Board members postponed a vote concerning a zoning change for a controversial piece of real estate between Spring Creek and Rote roads.

About 25 protesters displayed their displeasure with the proposed zoning change, which would pave the way for more than 300 homes in an area that is currently zoned for agriculture.

The board was scheduled to vote on the change at their Oct. 28 meeting. However, before the vote, Chris Johnson (R-4) made a last-minute motion to delay the vote. Johnson’s motion passed in a 14-12 vote with one member absent, and one abstention by Patti Thayer (R-9).

Thayer is a real estate agent for an agency that is trying to sell land for the proposed housing development.

Board members debated why the delay was necessary. Phil Johnson (D-8) said: “They don’t have the votes. So they will lay this over and keep laying it over forever, until they can make it work.” The protesters applauded.

Because the protesters filed legal objections to the change, 21 of the 28 board members are needed to vote for the proposal.

Jim Hughes (D-11) said he supported Chris Johnson’s motion because Rockford Mayor Doug Scott needed more time to meet with “his folks” about a pre-annexation agreement the city has with the subdivision’s developer, Robert Zadek.

Sources alleged that developer Sunil Puri contacted Scott to persuade him to lobby for delay of the vote.

Randy Olson (R-1) said he was asked by Scott to lobby board members for the delay. Puri was contacted but said he didn’t have time for an interview. Scott’s communication coordinator, John Strandin said he was sure Puri and Scott discussed the issue, but Puri did not ask Scott to lobby for the delay.

The zoning change corresponds with the county’s plan to construct a road east of Interstate 90 between Spring Brook and Orth roads near the proposed housing development. The county plans to use that road to eventually connect East State Street to Illinois 173.

The zoning change issue is expected to be brought up for a final vote on Nov. 23.

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