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Marengo delays vote to extend city limits

MARENGO – The Marengo City Council’s much-anticipated vote Monday on the initial annexation deals with asphalt producers that would add hundreds of acres into the rural city will have to wait another day with negotiations ongoing.

Riley Township officials consequently scolded Marengo for the delayed decision as proof that the city is moving too fast even for the bargaining land owners who are a part the original annexation deals that would add nearly 1,400 acres southwest of Marengo.

The city has wanted to cut through the township and extend its limits along Route 23 to reach Interstate 90, so officials can formally talk with the Illinois Tollway Authority about financing an interchange intended to spur development in Marengo for the coming decades.

But the initial steps to achieving that plan hit a snag after a representative from VCNA Prairie informed the Marengo zoning commission Thursday that they still are negotiating with the city on the financial incentives needed to seal a deal and annex the sand and gravel miner’s 253 acres west of Route 23 into the city.

City Attorney Carlos Arevalo has since told the Northwest Herald that the council will not take the scheduled final annexation vote on the VCNA Prairie and a similar deal involving A.R. Land Co.’s 340 acres that neighbor VCNA’s territory.

“Parties need to negotiate and determine what is feasible for them,” said Arevalo, who has led the city’s annexation negotiations. “Everybody has been critical that this is happening too fast. People aren’t making these decisions lightly, and that’s why we are having delays.”

He stopped short of calling the delay a setback to the city’s original timeframe to annex the land.

VCNA Prairie had been seeking a clause to opt out of the annexation if the interchange never materialized. The company also was working with the city on a property tax incentive package, but still hadn’t reached consensus on the length.

A.R. Land also won’t finalize a deal until VCNA endorses their own agreement, Arevalo said. A.R. Land has proposed starting a similar sand and gravel mining operation directly south of its competitor, VCNA, upon being annexed into Marengo.

The council, instead, will decide Monday on a rescheduled date sometime in April to approve the annexations, Arevalo said.

The delay on both deals comes after the zoning commission recommended rezoning permits for the companies’ 650-plus acres that allows for some lenient business restrictions.

Riley Township Supervisor Karen Schnable said some residents at the commission meeting wanted to express their concerns with the proposed changes, but left in frustration after the meeting dragged until 11 p.m.

Commission members presided over four public hearings, multiple zoning requests and one amendment to the zoning code during the four-hour meeting. Schnable doubts the city will slow its pace on the annexation deals.

“They want to push this through at any expense so they can get the annexation,” Schnable said. “They are definitely on the fast track. We need to look at each annexation separately. ... Proper planning needs to be done right.”

Schnable has been hearing from residents about concerns regarding A.R. Land’s proposed transformation of its 340 acres that would be allowable under the special use manufacturing permits the zoning commission recommended.

A.R. Land wants to maintain its 30-acre asphalt production facility on site, but then use 310 acres of its agricultural land at most for sand and gravel mining in the coming years.

They also were given the initial approval to start an 80-acre compost facility that has Schnable and others questioning whether the environment can withstand such an operation.

Riley officials also have expressed concern about the expanded mining hours under the city’s zoning regulations. By moving away from the county regulations, both companies would be allowed to mine year-round from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

The county stipulated slightly less operating hours, but restricted mining between April and October. VCNA representatives already have said they typically mine their area until the mid-afternoon and wouldn’t do so during the winter.

City officials also have maintained that the dramatic land use changes that neighboring Riley residents are fearing will not happen instantly, because the companies aren’t proposing drastic changes to their existing business operations.

But as Marengo and Riley debate whether the changes are real or perceived, the City Council will have to wait on making the zoning changes official.

Arevalo said the council can’t legally endorse the zoning recommendations until the land is annexed into the city.

Aldermen on Monday stand a greater chance with adding the third land owner, Chicago Title Land Trust Co., into city limits. The two have been negotiating to annex its 750 acres west of Route 23.

The annexation deal didn’t require zoning recommendations from the commission. But Arevalo admitted that the two parties haven’t finalized an annexation deal. If the two can’t agree to the language, then the council also will delay that vote, he said.

“I think they are ready,” Aravelo said. “But as the case with these annexations, we think we are ready but then they are not.”

City staff hopes to present the remaining four annexation deals, covering roughly 1,000 acres, in the coming months, if the council eventually has the opportunity to vote on the initial deals.

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