By Jim Hagerty
The public will have another chance to suggest revisions to the recently released Winnebago County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
The 24-chapter ordinance will regulate everything from fracking to farming to medical marijuana once it’s approved and merged with the county’s development codes.
Before that happens, the Zoning Board of Appeals will review the UDO and allow the public to comment at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 14, at the Winnebago County Courthouse, 400 W. State St. The hearing is a continuation of a Sept. 10 session.
Released Aug. 29, the UDO specifies land use for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural developments in Winnebago County. That includes fracking projects and medical marijuana businesses.
While there hasn’t been much interest in fracking here, the state’s newly passed provisions for the controversial oil- and gas-drilling techniques could attract companies to the county. No medical marijuana farms or dispensaries are planned in Winnebago County under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, but officials are expecting that industry to expand, adding to the need for specific land-use statutes.
“The hearing may be the last, unless enough people show up for the chair to extend the process to another night,” said Frank Schier, founder and chairman of the Rock River Trail Initiative and editor and publisher of The Rock River Times. “If you are interested in agricultural concerns, fertilizer runoff, riparian zones, preservation of storm runoff, water quality, flooding, natural areas, farmland, property division limitations, the strictness of conservation design standards in agricultural areas, or setbacks for wind turbines, you should be there.
“For all of us who took part in the six-year hearing process of the Winnebago County Land Use Plan, these Unified Development Ordinances are the nuts and bolts of the implementation of that plan,” Schier continued. “If you went to hearings on the creation of the Natural Resources Inventory, or any of the other hearings, you want to read the UDOs to see if your viewpoint is being downgraded or upgraded in these new statutes.”
Schier, who has testified before the county board during the land-use planning process, said speakers should expect to be cross-examined by other speakers and board members.
“If you cannot go to the hearing, no one else can represent you unless they are fully versed and can answer all questions about your concerns and specified proposals,” he said.
Winnebago County Board member Steve Schultz, R-3, said the hearing provides the public the opportunity to engage leaders in the planning process.
“For citizens concerned about good land-use rules for our community, this is an opportunity to make their voice heard and get their questions answered,” Schultz said. “Their engagement sends a message to our leaders that land-use decisions matter and those that favor the few, most connected individuals over the larger community will be held accountable.”
The Unified Development Ordinance is available for download at the county’s website or by calling the Winnebago County Zoning and Planning office at (815) 319-4350.
From the Sept. 24-30, 2014, issue