CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County College plans to use eminent domain to acquire 20 acres along Route 14 that officials say is needed for expansion.
MCC’s Board of Trustees initially offered to buy the property at 9010 Route 14 for $750,000 in April. G.H.M. Trust, which owns the land, made a counteroffer of $1.5 million.
The college board voted unanimously Thursday to reject the counteroffer and start condemnation proceedings to get the land through eminent domain. It deemed further negotiations over the sale price “futile.” The vote came after a closed-session discussion.
Located north of Ring Road, the property previously had been listed for $3.1 million, but two appraisals obtained by the college put the price much lower. One came in at $700,000, the other at $750,000.
To initiate the condemnation process, the college first must get permission from a judge because the land is tied up in a bankruptcy case. William J. Gilger, one of the owners of the trust, filed for bankruptcy in April 2010.
Gilger intends to sell the property at 9010 Route 14 as part of his reorganization plan, according to court documents.
How the bankruptcy case will proceed is far from certain, and there are several possible paths, Gilger’s attorney Bradley Koch said.
Condemning the property will “take the decision of price out of the hands of the owner and into the hands of the court,” MCC board attorney Dan Curran said.
If granted, college officials and the property owners would give evidence of the value of the property, and a local jury could decide the price, Curran said.
Curran did not know if anyone was living on the property, which has a two-story house on it, according to Dorr Township property records.
A message left for Gilger was not returned late Friday.
College leaders haven’t finalized plans for how they want to use the 20 acres, but said it was critical for future growth.
“We need the property to expand the campus,” MCC President Vicky Smith said. “We’re out of space here. Without these acres we can’t physically expand.”
Student enrollment at MCC has grown dramatically in recent years and remains at record levels. For several years the dearth of classroom and lab space has been a key concern for school officials.
The board plans to dip further into restricted funds to pay for the land. MCC’s restricted operations and maintenance fund will have a balance of about $10.2 million at the end of this fiscal year.
In March, the board approved using $3.5 million from the fund for an overhaul project that will add a culinary lab and remodel the existing kitchen, cafeteria, commons area and entrance to Building B.