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Annexation deal gets OK in Marengo

Adds 750 acres to city; two other votes delayed

MARENGO – Facing a handful of critics Monday, the Marengo City Council annexed 750 acres into city limits in a vote that encountered numerous delays but now moves the city closer to Interstate 90.

The council approved, 7-0, the agreement with Chicago Title Land Trust Co. that nets the city 750 acres southwest of Marengo, along Route 23 and west of Pleasant Grove Road, shortly before formally annexing the land into Marengo.

The deal moves Marengo through Riley Township and closer to I-90 in the city’s ongoing quest to reach the Interstate at Route 23, so that city officials can formally negotiate with the Illinois Tollway Authority about financing an interchange intended to spur future development.

The council’s vote completes the first part of the initial effort to annex 1,400 acres southwest of Marengo. The council did not vote on the two more controversial agreements that are a part of that effort, prolonging a battle that has already encountered delays and feverish resistance.

Riley Township officials have protested Marengo’s annexation process all year, arguing the pace is too quick and disregards proper planning, especially with zoning.

Addressing city aldermen Monday, Riley Trustee Cathy Johnson argued that Marengo officials have “no sensible reasons” for moving so fast on annexing land southwest of its borders.

“If the plan was a good one that would benefit people, it wouldn’t be so difficult to push it through,” Johnson said.

The council was originally set to vote on the Chicago Title deal and two others involving VCNA Prairie and A.R. Land Co. at the end of March, but officials delayed it and blamed ongoing negotiations with the landowners.

The city administration delayed the votes again earlier this month to allow officials time to develop an agricultural zoning regulation that mirrors the county’s regulations that currently govern the land owned by Chicago Title, VCNA and A.R. Land.

Johnson and Riley Road Commissioner Dave Diamond also questioned the city’s ability to extend city services to the annexed land without increasing the burden on taxpayers.

But Marengo City Manager Gary Boden said the added cost would be “nominal,” including the added road maintenance. The city will cover less than three miles of additional roads within the 750 added acres, including portions of Pleasant Grove Road and Blissdale Road.

“These won’t be extraordinary expenses for the city. It’s a drop in the ocean,” Boden said.

He also defended the city’s annexation pace. Riley officials and the public have had numerous opportunities to express themselves dating back to last summer, when the city publicly unveiled its expansion plan, Boden said.

The agreement with Chicago Title stipulates how the company can develop the land in the future and also contains provisions about future sand and gravel mining. The company would need to get the proper environmental permits and have the land rezoned, if Chicago Title wanted to mine the area.

The unanimous vote on the agreement also required the help of Mayor Don Lockhart, who typically can only cast tiebreaking votes. But the agreement needed a two-thirds majority, and aldermen Todd Hall, Ward 4, and Michael Smith, Ward 1, were absent.

Chicago Title’s property also was rezoned under the city’s new agricultural classification, which the council also approved, 6-0, Monday.

Officials created the new agricultural zoning regulation after a dispute with the McHenry-Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District on whether the annexing land owners needed to have an environmental report, required by law, conducted on their properties.

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