Rockton subdivision moves forward after years of controversy
After about five years of stalls, Rockton officials signed off on the first phase of a 123-acre subdivision near Rockton Road and Prairie Avenue.
When Chris Cannell of First Rockford Group announced the plan to build Cannell Farms in 2006, village trustees were quick to cite several problems with the project, most notably the size of the lots. As Cannell proceeded, officials voted him down, claiming the lots were too small and the number of well and septic systems were not sufficient. A major battle occurred before the Winnebago County Board, but Cannell triumphed there, too.
A 3-3 vote by Rockton’s Village Board last Tuesday, June 7, seemed to indicate some of the same concerns at the county and village levels were still evident. However, the tie-breaker was provided by Village President Dale Adams, giving the project a green light.
“I’m concerned about the condition of the soil,” Trustee Tricia Davey said. “There has been years of sewage sludge [spread on the land], and there has been talk that there is presence of heavy metals.”
Davey also noted that because of the size of Cannell Farms, a standard leach field may not be possible on the land. That, she said, has prompted the developer to propose using a common green area as the septic draining field.
“The problem with that is that green area is supposed to be a shared area,” Davey said. “If all of that septic drains into that area, it could collapse the wells, and…it could get into the groundwater.”
According to Davey, the June 7 vote may be for a plan that may violate the project’s guidelines under its designation as a planned community development (PCD).
“This is supposed to be done all at once,” Davey said. “It isn’t supposed to be piece-mealed together. This is a violation of the PCD.”
Five lots are scheduled to be developed in the first phase of the project.
Dale Adams could not be reached for comment by press time. However, he said in an earlier report in the Beloit Daily News that he is happy with the size of the lots and that the plan was “well thought out.”
“I had great hope for this vote,” said Frank Schier, editor & publisher of this paper and long-time opponent of the development. “I wish some way existed for the Village of Rockton to revisit allowing private well and septics for Cannell within a mile-and-a-half from village boundaries, plus the size of the lots and their layouts with utilities.
“I had hoped all the environmental groups would come forward to really fight this sprawl and the first test of the county’s 2030 Land Use Plan,” Schier added. “But only public silence came from groups like the local chapters and friends of the Sierra Club, Natural Land Institute, Winnebago County Forest Preserve, Winnebago County Soil & Water and others. So much for wishes and hope.
“While many preach outdoor and environmental education, green principles and conservation design, they just whisper behind the scenes and fail the practice of their new environmental activism in major test cases like this one,” Schier said. “Why? Because they’re afraid of offending the supposedly mighty Sunil Puris of this community or others that write checks to their land acquisition funds, foundations and payrolls. Playing it ‘safely smart,’ they can’t stand up with courage, especially when they know they are going to lose.
“I’m just as mad at myself because I didn’t pursue the date of that meeting hard enough and missed it, too,” Schier said. “So let’s go gather ‘feel-good environmentalism’ and have a glass of wine out in the wetlands with a subdivision across the road leaching its crap into its free, pretty front yard. Good for Cannell; great location. Don’t mind the stench, we have four rivers in this county to pollute.”
From the June 15-21, 2011, issue
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