County OKs disputed PCD

Members approve special-use permit for a 123-acre Dyn Cannell planned community development; lawsuit possible

With five members absent, the Winnebago County Board approved a special use permit, clearing the way for a Dyn Cannell 123-acre planned community development in Rockton Township.

Rockton Township Trustee Dean Mohring said the Township was “very disappointed” by the County Board’s vote to approve the special-use permit.

“We feel we should have a right to object,” Mohring said.

In a previous story, Rockton Village Trustee Tim Slocum said the planned community development goes against the village’s comprehensive plan, particularly its 2.5-acre rule.

The County Board isn’t paying attention to communities outside of Rockford, he said. Mohring said 20 of the 28 County Board members live in Rockford.

“They can really gang up on us,” he said.

According to Mohring, the Township is considering filing a lawsuit against the Winnebago County Board. The lawsuit issue will be presented to the Rockton Township Board at the Wednesday, June 14, meeting.

“We are going to ask two questions,” Mohring said. “One, did they feel disenfranchised by the end around of the PCD and special-use permit exceptions? Two, would they approve using Township funds for a potential lawsuit against the Winnebago County Board and or the Democratic and Republican Caucus chairmen for violating the Open Meetings Act? I don’t know where they publish notices of these meetings. They say it’s on the Web, but they sure keep it quiet. Those votes were lined up.”

County Board member Tim Simms (R-14) supported the proposed subdivision.

“I think it’s good zoning,” Simms said.

His comment got a laugh from some of the audience. Simms wouldn’t let their response go unchallenged. He said they could laugh, while alleging Rockton-area residents never seemed to support any kind of zoning.

The development got County Board Member Pete MacKay’s (R-5) seal of approval.

“It’s a completely laid-out subdivision. I hope there are more of these,” MacKay said.

But the proposed subdivision didn’t give every County Board member warm and fuzzy feelings.

“I’ve got a little different take on this subdivision,” County Board member Jim Webster (R-2) said.

Before sharing his observations, Webster said he was speaking for both himself and County Board Member Dave Yeske (R-2). Yeske was absent, due to a death in the family. Webster told fellow board members Shirland School was in no danger of closing.

“The school is not in jeopardy,” he said.

Webster discounted claims that said Cannell’s development was needed to provide students, asserting Shirland School would be shut down if attendance dipped too low. He said there was “no magic number.” He noted that the Village of Rockton didn’t sign on to receive impact fees for a new developer, so it wouldn’t reap any financial benefits from the development.

Shirland School Board President Mark Baker said the school board attempted to answer all questions Rockton Mayor Dale Adams posed about the school. Baker stressed the school’s future isn’t in question.

“I would hope in the future that people who represent us would take a closer look at their decisions,” Baker said.

Adams alleged talk about Shirland Consolidated Community School District 134 joining with another district has been going on for years, due to the low student population. According to the District’s state report card, it serves nearly 160 students.

Adams said the Rockton Village Board’s recent 4-3 vote to not send a resolution opposing the proposed development “doesn’t necessarily mean we support [the development].”

Most Village Board members assumed the development would be approved, in spite of the Village Board’s actions, he said. According to Adams, some Village Board members were concerned about the County Board’s reaction.

“They didn’t want to send a message that they were opposing them,” he said.

Webster questioned the path the proposed development took through county government channels. He noted the Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals voted the permit down and the Winnebago County Farm Bureau didn’t support the development. Webster said the Winnebago County Health Department had problems with the proposed subdivision.

If the subdivision were truly worthwhile, Webster said, it could have gone through the standard channels.

“A typical map amendment would have carried the day,” he said.

Webster went on to question why the County Board allegedly ignores one resource.

“We’ve got a land use guide. It’s up on the wall. We never use our land use guide,” he said.

According to Webster, the County Board seems to make up things as it goes along.

“We shoot from the hip or the lip. Let’s pretend for a while we can follow [the land use guide],” he said.

County Board member Gary Jury (R-3) countered that he has studied the land use guide.

Randy Drummond, who resides at 14788 Prairie Ave., said the proposed development is adjacent to his property. Drummond said he’s lived in the area for 10 years. Change, he said, is overdue at the county level.

“I think it’s time to shrink the County Board,” Drummond said.

But, according to Drummond, the development won’t affect him.

“It’s really not (going to affect me), ‘cause I’m moving. I didn’t move here to live next to a subdivision,” he said.

Drummond said four houses would border his property. Despite his intention to move, he said the County Board vote doesn’t mean the end of the issue. Attorney Ian Linnabary concurred.

“The next step lies with the folks who have standing,” Linnabary said.

He said those living adjacent to the proposed development would, most likely, have the best chance of establishing standing. Those residents with standing could file a lawsuit, Linnabary said.

“Whether or not it goes forward depends on the will of the adjacent property owners,” he said.

Dyn Cannell spokesman Marvin Keys said, during public participation, much misinformation about the proposed development exists.

“This final product may not mirror exactly what we proposed,” he said.

Keys said the subdivision’s design remained the same, except for the lot sizes.

Natural Land Institute Executive Director Jerry Paulson said his organization opposed the development because all water would drain into the Nygren Wetland. While he said both ground and surface water would drain into the wetland, it would be predominantly ground water.

Storm water management and septic systems, Paulson said, were a concern. According to Paulson, the development was slated to have more than 120 septic systems. But that number was reduced to 90 septic systems.

Since the ground in the area is sandy, Paulson said, the risk of water contamination exists, but “we won’t know that till it happens,”

According to the Beloit Daily News, some residents believe the cities of Beloit and South Beloit as well as the Village of Rockton dumped sludge, which allegedly left high metal content in the soil in the 1980s.

Paulson railed against use of the special use permit, saying it was inappropriate to use the permit for a run-of-the-mill subdivision.

“This sets a bad precedent,” he said.

Paulson pointed out the special use permit strips neighbors and communities with legal standing to object to the development.

“It’s pretty much anything goes,” he said.

Officials and community members alike have displayed their opposition in the last two issues of The Rock River Times.

From the June 14-20, 2006, issue

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