Marengo delays annexation vote again

MARENGO – The City Council again will wait to vote on some controversial annexation deals, since officials need time to develop a new zoning regulation that should clarify recent concerns about an environmental report.

City officials have been trying to annex land along Route 23 south and west of its borders to extend its limits and entice the Illinois Tollway Authority to build an interchange at Interstate 90 to spur economic development.

The plan has irked neighboring Riley Township officials, who have argued that the city’s annexation approach is too fast and disregards proper planning, especially with zoning.

The new agricultural classification ensures that the landowners, who are trying to annex the initial 1,400 acres to Marengo, will be governed by the same zoning regulations that the McHenry County uses, City Manager Gary Boden said.

The new classification also ends the debate the city has been having with the McHenry-Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District for the past month about whether the landowners needed to pay a hefty fee and have the district conduct a natural resources report required by law.

“The whole hubbub about the [natural resources] report is nothing more than a blip to take care of because that is what people want,” Boden said. “It hasn’t changed the project. All the zoning classification does is provide more clarity.”

The debate over the report started after Riley Supervisor Karen Schnable alerted the conservation district that the annexing landowners had not yet filed a request. The natural resources report identifies the different environmental conditions of a particular parcel.

The report is meant to aid municipalities, such as Marengo, when deciding how to rezone or annex land that may be changed for new development, conservation district officials said. The district is given 30 days from the date of the request to file a report.

City officials maintained that the landowners did not need to file the report, since they aren’t proposing any immediate changes to its land despite having to go through rezoning since the city did not have an agricultural zoning classification similar to the county code.

Marengo and conservation district officials have since disagreed on whether state law stipulates that the report is needed when landowners are seeking annexation. To avoid a prolonged debate, the city’s new zoning classification clarifies that the land presently will be used for agricultural purposes and nothing more, Boden said.

This change, however, means A.R. Land Co. will need a natural resources report for its 340 acres west of Route 23. The company wants to start mining the area for sand and gravel, and start a compost facility, triggering a land-use change.

The conservation district received the company’s request earlier this week. Schnable welcomed the news, arguing that the city now is in compliance with state law.

But she still hopes the public could review A.R. Land’s natural resources report before the city votes on the annexation deals to ensure the land can support a compost facility.

“I’m hoping we still have an opportunity to review the report and express concerns,” she said.

The development of the new zoning classification means the city once again wil postpone council votes on the three annexation deals until late April or May, Boden said.

The city was supposed to vote on the three deals last month, but delayed it until Monday’s meeting to allow time for further negotiation with the landowners. The City Council has to approve seven total annexations before reaching I-90.

The city’s zoning commission will now meet Thursday to discuss and recommend the new classification to the council.

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