Rockton rejects leapfrog pre-annexation

The Rockton Village Board of Trustees held a hearing Aug. 7 for the public to weighin on the proposed pre-annexation agreement for 87.85-acres at Owen Center Road and Route 75, an area not bordered by the village.

The parcels, owned by the Kudlacik and Meyer families, are, however, contiguous with land being considered for future annexation and development.

Village Attorney Gino Galluzzo explained, “The development, even if the annexation were to pass, would not be annexed into the village until we become contiguous.”

Once the land between village limits and the Kudlacik/Meyer properties is annexed in, the nearly 88 acres will be open to development once annexed into Rockton.

Village President Dale Adams noted developers would be responsible for the cost of sewer and water connections, which some residents were afraid they’d have to bear.

Plans for the proposed pre-annexation include single-family homes and condominiums, ranging in price from $175,000 to $300,000. Some commercial development is also planned, all of which would require a zoning change from the rural status currently deemed by Winnebago County.

Adams also tried to ease concerns about commercial development included in the proposal.

“We need a certain amount of commercial in any community,” said Adams, apparently favoring the agreement. “Otherwise, the full burden of the school system, police department, goes to property owners.”

Citing the sales tax boon Wal-Mart has been for the village, Adams added, “I think Rockton needs to continue to pursue commercial tax revenues to offset the additional expense for school districts.”

By annexing the land into Rockton, the County Board would no longer have authority over zoning of the 87.85 acres.

The pre-annexation agreement dangles green space, a forest preserve donation and school impact fees, but Rockton residents turned out in force to oppose Mark Crosby as he attempted to sell trustees on the plan. Crosby, a Rockford realtor, also serves as a consultant for Davenport Properties, Inc., who favor the proposed Beloit Bypass and residential development in surrounding areas.

Kevin Mueller, a Rockton merchant and resident, was first to speak out against the agreement, noting the Winnebago County Board has turned down similar requests in recent history. Mueller argued a main consideration of the county’s land-use plan is to preserve farm land and rural open space. Mueller indicated the focus of development should be to urban areas already equipped with water and sewer.

“This proposed re-zoning is well out of Rockton, and it is completely surrounded by farm land, save for one longstanding residence,” Mueller told village trustees. “Under this agreement, Winnebago County would be unable to control this land in accordance with their plans.”

Mueller implored trustees not to circumvent or undermine the county’s authority on such matters.

“This pre-annexation proposal is tantamount to the golden rule of childhood negotiation,” Mueller added. “‘If Mom says ‘no,’ ask Dad.’”

Crosby, however, views the annexation as a necessary step to accommodate growth, which cannot be avoided. Crosby said the county’s population will reach 360,000 by 2030. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Winnebago County’s 2006 population to be 295,635.

Noting taxpayers are not being asked for a single penny for sewer and water, Crosby indicated, “In the next 23 years, we’re gonna have to plan for almost 60,000 single-family units.

“Most of the green space that they [County Board] want preserved is in Rockton and Shirland townships, and this will be the first subdivision—first development ever,” said Crosby, who ultimately hopes for an R-1 residential designation.

Rockton Township Trustee Tom Jencius, who also served on the Community Focus Group for the nearly-completed Winnebago County 2030 Land-Use Plan, concurred with Mueller, calling the agreement “contrary to the direction that the county is taking with their long-term land-use plan.

“It’s not contiguous to you folks,” Jencius stated simply. “I’m sure if those people went to the county, the county would disallow this being re-zoned as single-family.

“I don’t see this helping the school districts. I don’t see this benefiting the village. If anything, it will probably leave the village with a long-term liability,” Jencius alleged, saying only the property owners would benefit. For now, Jencius said, the village should leave the land alone until the nearly 88 acres becomes contiguous to Rockton.

Stephen Schultz, chairman of the Growth and Annexation Committee for the 2030 Plan, backed Jencius.

“The cost of development is not covered by fees that might be collected,” Schultz reported. “The long-term impact of these developments on the community is borne by the existing taxpayer base.”

Mueller was allowed to read a letter from his father, Bruce, who is a former Rockford Auburn High School science teacher and holds a master’s degree in geology.

While acknowledging the emergence of ethanol plants in agricultural areas as a partial solution to reducing dependence on fossil fuels, Mueller pointed out this also causes a strain on farms and consumers.

“The result of using what was once food for fuel has driven up the price of food. All of these problems,” Mueller read, “will be adversely affected by removing 87-plus acres of prime farm land from production.

“Those who build on and sell the land will benefit greatly, but they and we—all of us—are being painted into a corner and will pay a price for removal of prime farm land.”

Mueller said homes must, of course, be built, but that they shouldn’t be on prime agricultural land.

A number of residents expressed concerns about water runoff and drainage from roads and homes, which was not addressed in the proposal. Crime associated with growth was also a worry for residents.

“The people that live out there don’t want it,” argued kennel owner Brian Moyse. “There’s a reason why people live in Rockton….It’s a small-town community. It has a rural feel to it….There’s a reason why everyone moved out there. It’s not to have our backs up to a huge subdivision.”

Neighbors are fearful the development would drive down their property values, but Crosby believes quite the opposite.

Moyse conceded the inevitability of growth, but that it should be done in a smart way. Pointing to Roscoe, Moyse said the village is busting at the seams from its recent growth spurt.

Responding to apprehension on the part of Rockton School Board President Brenda Warren, Crosby told her, “We are gonna have an impact on schools, and the impact on schools is gonna be positive.”

Crosby added property taxes are the best way for the village to increase its income.

Hononegah Superintendent Randy Gross, however, argued impact fees in Roscoe are falling well short of the additional building and other support to accommodate the increased number of students in the school district.

Insisting the proposal is a well-planned development, Crosby reminded neighbors: “This isn’t a mobile home park. This isn’t an apartment complex. This is gonna be nice single-family dwellings.”

When Adams was unable to obtain a second to his motion to approve the agreement, it was apparent Crosby was unable to sway residents or trustees, who voted 5-1 to deny the proposal. Trustee Dave Winters cast the sole “yes” vote.

Trustee Scott Fridly said he’d have been much more inclined to approve the pre-annexation with an agricultural designation, but not R-1 single-family. Fridly said Crosby could have come before the board after the area is annexed to request re-zoning.

Adams urged Crosby back to the drawing board, encouraging him to bring a new proposal before trustees. For now, residents who cherish the small-town spirit in Rockton are victorious.

from the Aug 15-21, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!