Left Justified: Lost another one to developers; Dyn Cannell could set precedent

Environmentalists are losing their shirts and your prairie to developers who are well heeled, heavily invested and running roughshod over the land. Bring back Chief Black Hawk!

These developers are putting outlandishly ugly housing developments out in godforsaken farmland not connected to any sewer system, and acting as if this were good planning. And our elected officials of the Winnebago County Board are, for the most part, going along with it hook, line and sinker. If I had the time, I would check into who is giving “donations” to their “re-election campaigns.”

Even the Health Department expresses a concern about the health aspects of raw sewage seeping into our drinking water from these developments. And the County Board yawns, as if they all can afford bottled water (well, I hope they like taking a bath in it).

The BlackHawk Group of the Sierra Club urged the Winnebago County Board to vote against the petition by Dyn Cannell, LLC for a Special Use Permit to build a “Planned Community Development” on Prairie Road north of the Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton Township. This development is proposed to be on “private well and septic” (which means chances of leakage). And this development is being built on sandy soils over bedrock and could easily contaminate the groundwater that feeds the wells and flows into the wetland preserve.

But who cares? Only school kids come out there, and the people who live in the development can worry about drinking water after the developer gets his profit.

But our greatest concern is about the precedent that would be set for all future development in the rural areas of the county if this subdivision were allowed as a Special Use in the Agricultural District. This is a conventional subdivision with a little bit of open space in the middle that will mostly be used for storm water retention. One member of the County’s Zoning Board of Appeals described it as “a bad design in the wrong place.” And there were only four votes against it. Nineteen Board members voted for it. We were out-gunned, blown out of the water, killed and hung up to dry. And I bet those four stalwarts will be opposed in future elections by well-heeled friends of developers.

The Planned Community Development ordinance was intended to encourage innovative designs for developments that are compatible with the surrounding land use and provide large areas of open space for conservation and recreation. The design of this development does neither, but they are using the letter of the law to destroy the spirit of the law. Lawyers. We need some on the environment’s side.

The development was approved, so you can expect to see a rash of similar subdivisions being proposed all over the county as “Planned Community Developments” because the zoning ordinance says nothing about the zoning districts where they can be allowed.

You can also expect to see more leapfrogging developments out in the middle of nowhere, which will soon demand more schools, roads, shopping centers, police and fire protection, and yes, they don’t want any increase in their property taxes.

And, by the way, why does the water taste like crap?

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the June 14-20, 2006, issue

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