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Opposition to McHenry County RV restrictions come out in force

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 11:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 8:39 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – Proposed restrictions to the outdoor storage of boats and other recreational vehicles on residential lots has owners up in arms.

A standing-room-only audience came out in force at Tuesday evening’s McHenry County Board meeting to object to language in the proposed Unified Development Ordinance that restricts how recreational vehicles are parked and stored in front of homes. Present county ordinances, which the UDO is intended to replace, have no such restrictions.

To opponents of the measure, such as Tom Eckland of Burtons Bridge, that’s the way it should be. There’s a reason he keeps a 12-foot rowboat and two jet-propelled personal watercraft in his yard – the Fox River is a block and half from his house.

“Darned near everybody in our neighborhood has something sitting outside,” Eckland said.

Under the proposed UDO, no recreational vehicle or the trailers licensed to transport them can be parked in a driveway for more than 30 days, or parked or stored in a front yard. It also limits the number of vehicles stored outside to two, which must be kept at least five feet from a lot line. The ordinance covers vehicles such as boats, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, travel trailers and recreational vehicles.

The UDO will only apply to unincorporated areas and will not supersede municipal zoning and land-use ordinances.

The UDO is not scheduled to come to a vote until next month – as is often the case with controversial county legislation, emails and websites erroneously stated the County Board planned to vote Tuesday.

County Board member John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, has been warning residents about the proposed changes and asked residents to come to Tuesday’s meeting.

Hammerand called the proposed restriction government excess, especially in his district. Hammerand is one of four County Board members representing District 4, which includes portions of the Fox River and the Chain O’ Lakes, as well as much of Wonder Lake’s shores. He said many water enthusiasts moved to McHenry County because it did not impose onerous regulations on how watercraft and other recreational vehicles are stored.

“I believe it is imperative to my voters, and I think this amounts to government taking away their toys. And no one likes having their toys taken away by somebody else,” Hammerand said.

The large audience that showed up to comment, mainly from the Wonder Lake and McHenry area, echoed Hammerand’s sentiments, some calmly, some angrily.

Brian Hendler of Wonder Lake said he spent a lot of money on his front yard and driveway to make sure his recreational vehicle is not an eyesore while not in use. He asked to cheers whether the County Board would be willing to reimburse him for the expense if he did it for nothing.

Brian McCafferty, also of Wonder Lake, said the proposed ordinance language “serves no other purpose other than to burden the people who chose to live in unincorporated McHenry County.”

He was one of several speakers who said he didn’t want to see McHenry County follow in the footsteps of other governments perceived to be regulation-happy.

“We don’t live in Schaumburg, and we don’t need Schaumburg-like ordinances thrust upon us,” McCafferty said.

Eckland said he may have to get rid of his 32-foot drag-behind camper for camping trips if the proposed restrictions become law, despite having more than 2 acres of land. He also said that people who don’t want to see boats stored in the open shouldn’t buy houses near recreational waterways.

“I’m paying $10,000 a year in property tax just to live here. Isn’t that enough?” Eckland said.

The County Board is set to vote to ratify the UDO at its evening meeting Sept. 16. It has reviewed the 300-page ordinance over the course of four Committee of the Whole meetings to make it easier the night of the vote for board members to introduce proposed changes.

The UDO, under development for more than three years that included public hearings, will overhaul all of the county’s development-related ordinances and merge them into one to make it easier to understand and follow.

Under current ordinance, the only restriction on recreational vehicles is they cannot be used for regular habitation – that prohibition also is in the proposed UDO. County ordinance already addresses inoperative vehicles and other nuisances.

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