River Keys gets flood of objections, Part I of III

River Keys gets flood of objections, Part I of III

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

The Machesney Park Village Board must still issue building permits for River Keys, a subdivision under construction that has infuriated nearby residents and the township supervisor for zoning ordinance variances and alleged flood plain destruction.

Developers Gerald Schneeman and Paul Slabaugh are in the process of developing the property located off Old River Road, near Route 2. Blueprints call for 62 houses and two river channels to launch boats into the Rock River.

The channels are complete, and streets are being paved. In about a month the developers plan to begin selling lots after curbs and gutters are installed.

“There weren’t many river lots around. We thought it would be a good investment. This is going to be a first-rate subdivision and an asset to Machesney Park,” Schneeman said.

But Owen Township Supervisor Owen Bach disagrees. He states that the property is unsuitable for a subdivision, that it’s unfair that developers obtained several variances instead of complying with ordinances, and that neighbors scorn the development.

Schneeman and Slabaugh believe the reason for his objections are simply because the subdivision is bothersome to its next-door neighbor, Bach, who lives north of the subdivision. The developers say people typically dislike large subdivisions right next to them. “Owen Bach didn’t want anything adjacent to him,” Schneeman asserted.

Bach stated, “Being an elected official, it’s my responsibility to address things that we believe are going to adversely affect the area.” He said that an overwhelming number of people living in the area oppose the subdivision.

Bach’s objections

One of Bach’s objections is the whole flood way and flood plain was reconstructed, allegedly destroying all habitat in the process.

However, Schneeman said property owners will be required to replace eight trees as part of landscaping requirements. “There’s just a very thin treeline along the river,” he said. “The rest of it was being farmed.”

Schneeman said the Army Corps is giving the developers until December 2002 to come into compliance with all items.

Bach also classifies the channels as stagnant lakes, stating they lack fresh water flow or aeration and will attract undesirable insects, organisms, etc. Slabaugh and Schneeman maintain the channels are not stagnant and indicated that the flow from the land ground water is toward the river, so any undesirable insects or organisms should flow out.

Bach also concluded that the developers’ ability to receive variances on ordinances paves the way for other developers to violate ordinances.

Chad Atkinson indicated the village grants variances in special circumstances. “I think they asked for them because of the design in the subdivision that they laid out,” he stated. “I think [the board] saw them necessary to maintain the unique design. I don’t think there’s anything unfair about it. It’s been done in the past. Is it fair to say that a property owner can’t do with his property what others have done in the past?”

Atkinson said that he and the village engineer examined the plat and made sure it followed guidelines, and they made a recommendation to the village board. He said since it met the requirements with the variances, it was approved.

The developers’ plat calls for 60-foot wide road right-of-ways, but the village’s ordinance points out they must be a minimum of 66 feet.

Schneeman postured that it’s standard procedure in 90 percent of the subdivisions in which he’s acted as an engineer. Ordinances for Loves Park and Rockford state that rights-of-way street should be a minimum of 60 feet.

Bach accuses the developers of creating dead-end roads, which is against the village ordinance. Schneeman said the subdivision doesn’t have dead-end streets. “It’s just a longer cul-de-sac,” he stated. He said a dead-end street lacks provisions for being able to turn around.

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