Guest Column: Jim Webster & Zoning Committee sentence Fox Ridge Neighborhood to LIFE

By Mona Marcinkowski
Fox Ridge Neighborhood resident

Oct. 11, the Winnebago County Zoning Committee voted on the proposed special-use permit for the asphalt plant William Charles would like to place in the East State Street Quarry. This vote would be the last recommendation vote before the entire Winnebago County Board votes on Oct. 27.

The proposed plan from the ZBA vote gave William Charles the OK for the special-use permit with a 10-year term limit for the permit and 30 days where, 24-hour operations would be permitted. Five more years than what was approved for the Mulford Quarry from the city of Rockford.

From the onset of the meeting, Chairman Jim Webster (R-2) was determined to set a tone of superiority and suppression. We felt that Jim Webster gave an impression he had a vested interest in obtaining the votes for this special-use permit for William Charles and was single-minded to make it happen.

The only items Jim Webster gave any attention to were changing some of the fifteen (15) recommendations that had been recommended by the ZBA Sept. 14. Jim Webster was annoyed when any committee member even wanted to discuss these issues. He had his mind set on changing the 10-year limit to life-time of the quarry and changed the 30-day, 24-hour plant operation to 90-day, 24 hours. With every action and look he gave the rest of the committee, he was clearly in a hurry to get this process over with. When asked about the Standards by Frank Gambino, he became irritated and asked if everyone had read them, and the committee all replied, “Yes.” Mr. Gambino (R-14) insisted the Standards needed to be discussed before any vote could be taken. With that, Jim Webster, agitated and disturbed, hurriedly ran through the Standards. All except for Frank Gambino agreed the standards were met.

For those of you out there who have never read the Standards, let me list the three I believe this proposal fails:

1. The establishment, maintenance or operation of the special use will not be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort, or general welfare.

2. The special use will not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity for the purposes already permitted, nor substantially diminish, and impair property values, within the neighborhood.

3. The establishment of the special use will not impede the normal, or orderly development and improvement of the surrounding property for uses permitted in the district.

It is clear to this observer; the ZBA and now the Zoning Committee do not understand their role in this process. It is their job to understand all of the facts in this case and weigh them against the standards set forth by this county in issuing special-use permits. All special-use permits must meet ALL standards for a permit to even be issued.

In reading the quote from Angie Goral (D-7) in the Rockford Register Star, “If it was in my backyard, I’d probably have an issue, too, but we have to take out the emotional part and really look at what the project involves,” it is clear to me that the reason Angie Goral would not want it in her backyard is the same reason all of us would prefer to not have it in our backyard. We do not want it to impede in any way our enjoyment of our property, our general welfare. William Charles is threatening the level of enjoyment the Fox Ridge Neighborhood receives today, and the Zoning Committee is determined to make it a life sentence. Does this not fail the Standards? Does not the very definition of an asphalt plant fail numbers one and two?

Angie Goral admitted in her quote this special-use permit request failed the standards of this county for her backyard, but yet she voted “YES.”

Jim Webster in another zoning matter concerning his backyard as shown in articles from the Rockford Register Star dated June 20 and Aug. 28, 2011, is fighting for something he does not want in his backyard. In looking at the public records concerning this matter, Jim Webster is concerned that the proposed subdivision next to his is only going to be 1-acre lots. He is concerned with the effects this will have on traffic and roads and water quality. To top it all off, he stated he wasn’t impressed with landscaping of the proposed subdivision. Mr. Webster can spot zone around his land to protect himself from only 1-acre lot homes, but the Fox Ridge Subdivision gets to have an asphalt plant. Is this how you expect a county board member to act? I will protect “me” and “mine” and I don’t care about “yours.”

We hope, Mr. Webster’s new neighbors will not keep him up all night unlike ours when William Charles is allowed to operate 24 hours a day for 90 days instead of the 30 days previous recommendation. We hope, none of them will be burning anything that he and his neighbors might find offensive from the smell unlike ours with pure homemade asphalt. We hope, these new homes will be a nice view from his home, and none of them will resemble a “stack pipe” of billowing smoke of chemicals like our new proposed neighbors.

Jim Webster is worried about the traffic this new subdivision will create and the damage to the roads, but yet he does not seem concerned about the amount of traffic this asphalt plant will generate or the damage it will do to the roads many of us share going in and out of Rockford onto I-90. Based on the article, his new subdivision will have approximately 93 homes, with approximately 186 cars spread out over time. The asphalt plant will have approximately 200 to 400 trucks a day or one every 3 minutes.

Jim Webster was so gracious in changing the sunset clause from “10” years to “the lifetime of the Quarry,” even though the Mulford/Harrison Quarry is for “5” years. He gave William Charles the two (2) issues that Bruce Ross-Shannon fought so vehemently for Sept. 14 in the ZBA hearing for William Charles and lost. But yet Jim Webster convinced the Winnebago County Zoning Committee to vote YES. What we find most interesting about this is in the transcripts from the Sept. 14 hearing, a ZBA member did, in fact, question the reasoning for the “10” year clause. Troy Krup, a Winnebago County Zoning administrator, on page 356 stated, “And we also looked at financing the project. You know, I don’t know if they’re going to outright spend cash or get a loan, and sometimes if you were to go to the bank, and I don’t know if there’s any testimony to it, five years might be too risky for a bank to have a loan.” Also on page 359, Troy Krup was asked by a board member what is the worst-case scenario if they don’t get the 10 years, and Troy stated, “Worst-case scenario, if they went to a bank, they may not get the financing. The project doesn’t happen even if the Board approved it.”

Why do the conditions for this special-use permit seem to be based on whether William Charles will be able to get financing? Shouldn’t the conditions be there to protect the residents of Winnebago County?

So, Mr. Webster, was your insistence on these two recommendations being changed based on the fact that William Charles would not be able to get financing if there was, in fact, a “sunset clause” of 10 years, and was the 24-hour period changed from 30 to 90 days also based on this? Who exactly are you representing? Who is benefiting from this? Certainly not the residents of Winnebago County.

Who on the Winnebago County Board will stand up and say this proposal does not meet the standards set forth by our county and vote NO? Frank Gambino (R-14) has. Steve Schultz (R-2) has in his memos because he was called out of town on business. Who will stand with them? Call your Winnebago County Board members and let them know your thoughts on this important vote on Oct. 27.

From the Oct. 19-25, 2011, issue

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