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Stage set for final reviews of development ordinance

Published: Saturday, July 12, 2014 12:12 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, July 12, 2014 12:44 a.m. CDT

Next Tuesday’s meeting of the McHenry County Board will get the ball rolling for the final review and vote on the proposed Unified Development Ordinance.

It also gives the public, supporters and critics alike, chances to air their concerns before a likely August vote.

The County Board will get a presentation on the ordinance next Tuesday evening, and will review it and get its chance to suggest changes at a Committee of the Whole meeting July 25. Both meetings include public comment, as does the Aug. 5 meeting at which a ratification vote could be scheduled after more than three years of work.

Coming in at 300 pages and 20 chapters, the ordinance updates the county’s development-related ordinances, such as those governing zoning, signs and subdivisions, and combines them into one to make the rules easier to read and follow. It only applies to unincorporated areas, and does not supersede municipalities with their own development and land-use ordinances.

The ordinance attempts to balance property rights and preservation of natural resources, and attempts to address some land-use issues, such as agritourism, that have caused problems for the County Board because no definition or rules existed.

But the UDO has recently come under fire from at least one environmental group that alleges it promotes rampant development and does not adequately protect the county’s natural resources. The Alliance for Land, Agriculture and Water criticized the ordinance and presented a list of at least 12 major problems it identified in a July 7 letter to County Board members.

“You have the opportunity to protect those important resources or you can squander them for short-term gains now for a few people and leave a legacy of loss and betrayal for those that you are honor bound to care for and protect,” ALAW President Patricia Kennedy wrote.

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