River Keys gets flood of objections, Part II of III

River Keys gets flood of objections, Part II of III

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

Owen Township Supervisor Owen Bach and a number of residents oppose the River Keys development situated off Old River Road near Route 2 and along the river.

The subdivision is being developed by Gerald Schneeman and Paul Slabaugh, and lots are expected to be sold within the month. The property was annexed into the village November of 2000. Schneeman purchased it in December of 1993.

Bach has said that his objections revolve around the manner in which the developers have acted. “The whole thing was the attitude,” he said. “They didn’t care what they did.”

He added that many village residents got together and devised plans for the village in the mid-1990s. They indicated they didn’t want the village to expand west.

Throughout the ordeal, residents have voiced concerns. Bach, who lives north of the development, has expressed his concerns. But the developers believe his and other residents’ qualms are unwarranted.

Bach’s concerns

Bach said the township has an annual budget of $80,000 to $90,000. However, he said the township’s road repairs will be astronomical because subdivision residents will be using them.

“It goes through secondary township roads which were never designed to handle this,” he noted. He stated that to bring up roads to standards, it would cost a half million dollars initially. After that, the township would take care of other costs.

Bach also questioned Machesney Park’s intent to create a retail shopping center. Schneeman said that eventually, the village intends to construct freestanding businesses at the corner of Latham and Route 2.

However, Bach pointed out that a retail center isn’t feasible because of the financial setbacks faced by Machesney Mall and North Towne Mall. “This is real pie-in-the-sky planning,” he stated.

Schneeman disagreed, indicating he sees several vehicles parked in front of J.C. Penney Outlet in Machesney, and North Towne—with the exception of the area that is closed—is doing fine financially.

Bach also argues the property is located on a flood plain and flood way. In 1982 in the State of Illinois Appellate Court Second District, Schneeman testified as an engineering expert on the property. Miller Bros. Real Estate, Inc.owned the property at the time.

Miller Bros. sued Winnebago County and the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals during legal wrangling which involved Miller Bros. Real Estate wanting to change the property’s zoning to residential.

Schneeman said about 14 to 15 percent of the property was in a flood way, and 25 percent was located in a flood plain.

Now, Schneeman concludes that with a Department of Army Corps of Engineers (DA) permit, the land was raised above the flood plain. The DA, the Department of Natural Resources and the IEPA approved the portion of the flood way. Bach questions how, all of a sudden, a permit isn’t necessary. “He totally contradicted his testimony he gave in ’82,” Bach stated.

Department of the Army Corps of Engineers

The DA failed to conduct a whole inspection or review the progress of the development, Bach complains. The DA cites it lacks time and manpower to conduct full inspections.

The DA gives developers the power to conduct studies and provide information about developments. The DA conducts periodic inspections to see if developers comply with particular items. Bach believes it’s unfair that the DA leaves it up to the developers to conduct studies.

Donna Johnson of the DA noted the agency was at the site in the spring. Jones said the developers complied with all items, except “the area that was to be excavated in the center of the development was smaller

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than what was authorized.”

She noted the seawall strung along a fence had floated away at one point because of high waters, but developers reconstructed it. Bach said that the seawall’s deconstruction is probably characteristic of future events.

The Illinois EPA is the only agency that cited the developers. In April 10, 2000, the citations were: causing or threatening to create water pollution by not providing adequate erosion control measures; offensive conditions at the river because waters must lack sludge or bottom deposits, floating debris, visible oil, odor, plant or algal growth, color or turgidity other than natural items; a lack of a storm water permit.

Joan Murraro, spokesperson for the Bureau of Water for the IEPA, said the developers were in compliance as of October 2000.

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