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Archive for the ‘Land Disconnection’ Category

Tonight’s Board of Trustees meeting will be the first official meeting for the village’s new engineering firm, Trotter & Associates.  We look forward to seeing their approach to municipal engineering and we hope that taxpayers will benefit from lowered costs and fresh ideas.

GHAWhile researching future content for the Observer, we stumbled across some interesting correspondence regarding Barrington Hills Farm (BHFW LLC) and our village’s former engineering firm, Gewalt Hamilton.  What we found is shocking, but it certainly makes the Village’s decision last year to change engineering companies very wise indeed.

According to documents found on McHenry County’s website, in December 2015, BHFW’s Chairman J. R. Davis was applying to McHenry County to convert part of an existing wetland on the property into a recreational pond.  As a result, some mitigation of the wetlands was necessary.  The specifics of the mitigation and request for credits from the Wetland Restoration Fund are not important.

What is important is the engineering firm that BHFW had hired to create their Wetland Mitigation Plan was Gewalt Hamilton.  And not just Gewalt Hamilton, but Dan Strahan himself , who was Barrington Hills’ Village Engineer at the time, was personally involved in the project.

Strahan is cc’ed on the Gewalt Hamilton letter to McHenry County on behalf of BHFW and Strahan’s signature even appears with Davis’ signature on the Wetland Restoration Fund application as the Design Engineer.

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To be clear, this was a project undertaken by a private property owner in unincorporated McHenry County immediately adjacent to the Village, and Strahan and Gewalt Hamilton were hired by that individual.  All at the same time when Strahan and Gewalt Hamilton were also employed by the Village of Barrington Hills.

We find it shocking that Gewalt Hamilton and Dan Strahan did not decline employment by BHFW & Mr. Davis in 2015, seeing as the firm had been serving Barrington Hills for decades.  Gewalt Hamilton & Strahan were well aware of the history of the Davis property, and in all likelihood would be called up by the Village to consult on the property in the future. It would be bad enough for any engineer employed by Gewalt Hamilton to have taken this job, let alone Dan Strahan.

Not surprisingly, Strahan indeed did end up personally involved in discussions on behalf of the Village regarding new driveways and dedicated easements and right-of ways for the proposed HARPS facility on BHFW property in 2016 & 2017.  It certainly gives us pause to wonder about the quality of the service the village and taxpayers received on that assignment.

Did Strahan and Gewalt ever divulge to the Village of Barrington Hills that they had been previously employed by Davis?

How could Strahan and Gewalt maintain any impartiality when they had been paid by both the Village and Davis?

Are there other projects that Gewalt has worked on for Davis and BHFW?

Did Strahan and Gewalt ever divulge this conflict of interest while they were applying for retention as the Village’s engineering firm?

Right now, we have more questions than answers.  We’ll leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusions.  We think the documents speak for themselves.

Click on the following links to  view the complete PDFs of the documents BHFarm_Gewalt_Wetland_1 and BHFarm_Gewalt_Wetland_2.

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As the Observer looks back at another year gone by, we thought we’d take the opportunity to point out some people and issues that made an impact in Barrington Hills news, whether it was good, bad or just plain phony.

ThumbsUpPresident Martin McLaughlin and Trustee Colleen Konicek Hannigan were re-elected for their second terms in April 2017. We applaud their excellent service to our village and appreciate the personal sacrifices that they have made to keep Barrington Hills the special place that it is . conicek-300x200@2x

ThumbsUpMcLaughlin continued his astounding record of financial stewardship. Having analyzed every aspect of village spending for the last five years, Marty has surgically excised waste and improved efficiencies in the village budget. Since 2013, the tax levy has been reduced by 20%, 20% more road miles have been paved per year, and cash reserves have increased by 40%.McLaughlin-300x200@2x

ThumbsUpSince McLaughlin took office, every administrative employee at Village Hall has changed. In prior years, Barrington Hills hired a new Village Attorney and Treasurer, and, due to the retirement of Chief Michael Murphy, Rich Semelsberger became Police Chief. In 2017 alone, a new Building Permit Coordinator, new Engineering Firm, Clerk and a new acting Director of Administration were hired.

ThumbsDownTwo candidates from the “Your Barrington Hills” slate narrowly won election to the Board of Trustees. Paula Jacobsen and Robert Zubak ran on a platform of unfounded and disproven complaints about village governance, and promised to do more to: 1) protect open spaces and property rights, 2)produce better results for our tax dollars, 3) restore public safety and security which they alleged had been sacrificed, and 4) improve transparency and information distribution. More than eight months have passed since the duo were sworn into office, and nary a mention has been made of any of these so-called initiatives. And, not surprisingly, neither trustee has presented their new ideas for those better results for our tax dollars.  This confirms our belief that their sole reason for running for office was to attempt to change the current commercial horse boarding protections.

Paula Jacobsen Robert ZubakJacobsen and Zubak also made campaign promises to vigorously challenge the Plum Farm land development in Hoffman Estates, falsely accusing McLaughlin and Konicek of doing nothing to oppose the project. Yet Jacobsen and Zubak have not even aired the Plum Farm issue during a board meeting.

ThumbsUp For the first time in many years, the Riding Club of Barrington Hills did not officially involve itself in the village election. Despite pressure from some of the Club’s most strident and vocal members, club president Jane Clement declined to make an political endorsement to the RCBH membership. We commend her for that. Politics and non-profit social clubs shouldn’t mix.

ThumbsUpThe 2017 hiring of Nikki Panos as part-time Building Department permit coordinator was a breath of fresh air. Panos brought competence and professionalism to the office whose previous occupant was frequently brusque and unkempt. We congratulate Panos’ promotion to Village Clerk and are confident that residents will be well served by her.

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Nikki Panos, Village Clerk

ThumbsUpThe wave of change at Village Hall continued with the engagement of a new engineering firm – Trotter & Associates – replacing Gewalt Hamilton. Gewalt Hamilton had served the Village for decades, but without review or evaluation. We look forward to the fresh perspective that Trotter will provide and hope that residents will receive better service at a lower cost.

ThumbsDownIn the spring of 2017, the owners of Barrington Hills Farm (whose 600+acres is now located almost entirely OUTSIDE the borders of Barrington Hills) flouted village laws when they demolished a home, engaged in major earth-moving, cut down numerous trees without adhering to the Tree Preservation Ordinance, and failed to obtain proper permits prior to engaging in the project. When the activity on this property (formerly owned by the recently deceased Barbara MacArthur) was finally discovered by the Village, two stop work order signs were posted by the village inspector, and both signs mysteriously disappeared. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done, and all the village could do was collect the permit fees and penalties months after the fact.

ThumbsDownApparently feeling slighted by having to follow the Village Code as all other residents and property owners have to do, the Barrington Hills Farm L.L.C. ownership demanded disconnection of the property in question into unincorporated McHenry County, a request that was granted by the Board of Trustees.

jokerSpeaking of Barrington Hills Farm, whatever happened to the HARPS facility they had planned near the intersection of Church and Chapel Roads, immediately adjacent to Barrington Hills homes on Alderberry Lane? It’s been over two years since representatives of the L.L.C. presented plans to both the village and McHenry County, and after all the hullabaloo they created over necessary curb cuts for the proposed driveway entrances and the nonsense over granting easements and rights-of-way, the corner remains undeveloped. There is no new information about the facility on the HARPS website either. Strange, isn’t it?

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Trustee Brian Cecola continued his excellent management of the Village’s Roads and Bridges.  He is completely engaged in his position, interfacing well with residents, village engineering firm and his fellow board members.  Miles of road paving per year are up, and Cecola is looking to increase that benchmark in the coming years.  Congratulations for a job well done!

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Trustee Brian Cecola

ThumbsUp 2017 brought the long-overdue retirement of Village Administrator Bob Kosin. His 35 years of service to Barrington Hills is much appreciated, but Kosin had long since ceased serving the residents efficiently, and was increasingly difficult to work with. His convoluted explanations and arcane knowledge of village history may have been interesting in the past, but residents and commission members no longer found his digressions amusing or beneficial.

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We are hopeful about the appointment of Anna Paul (previously Village Clerk) as acting Administrator. While the search for a permanent administrator may continue, the Observer has been pleased to watch Paul’s progression through the ranks of village administration. She offers a familiarity with VBH operations that no outside candidate with years of lead experience can match. Her organization and communication skills are outstanding, and despite her relative youth, she is steady, impartial and poised in any situation. We wish Anna Paul well in her new assignment.

jokerThe Observer usually doesn’t comment on state or federal races, but we feel compelled to comment on the unlikely candidacy of resident Kelly Mazeski in the Democratic Congressional primary in IL-06. Mazeski, whose recent civic resume consists of only of membership on the village’s Plan Commission, previously ran unsuccessfully for Village Board in 2013, and unsuccessfully for State Senate in 2016. Her campaign’s PR machine has been busy at work, trying to repackage her from the “financial expert” she called herself in 2016, now calling herself “mom/scientist/cancer survivor”. What’s next – butcher/baker/candlestick maker?

jokerSpeaking of Kelly Mazeski, it seems as though she’s been grasping for endorsements, trotting out support from “environmentalists” Karen Rosene and Karen Selman, as well as a big thumbs up from former trustee Mikey Harrington. Now that’s a lot to be proud of, isn’t it?

jokerAlthough he opted not to run for re-election as trustee, the specter of Fritz Gohl continues to loom over the village. Gohl, now receiving financial compensation as a Barrington Township trustee, still can claim his title of village buffoon. His frequent public comments during Board of Trustees meetings are no more logical or coherent now than they were during his tenure on the board.

ThumbsDownChuck Stewart, Village Arborist, is the last of the Kosin-era hold-overs. In appearances in front of village commissions and the BOT, Stewart communicates poorly and comes across as disorganized. The Observer is also concerned about the questionable judgment he demonstrated in enforcing the Tree Preservation Ordinance both in the Hasan case and in the aforementioned Barrington Hills Farm matter. Those faults, combined with an undisclosed potential conflict of interest (Stewart rents office space in a building owned by one of the members of the board of Barrington Hills Farm), makes him a poor choice to continue in the role of Village Arborist. The Village needs a tree expert who can communicate clearly with residents and builders, as well as with Village administration.

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VBH__LogoThe Village Board will meet on Monday August 28th at 6:30 PM. The agenda can be viewed here and the e-Packet can be found here.

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Fifty acres of sunflowers bloomed in northwest Barrington Hills this week to create a unique carpet of bright yellow.

But in addition to providing a vibrant visual along the village’s country lanes, these sun-worshipping plants play a practical role in the conversion of the nearly 700-acre Barrington Hills Farm to purely organic. Among the criteria for such certification is the soil must be found to be chemical-free — and sunflowers are among the species that can help expedite that process, experts say.

J.R. Davis and his wife, Dawn, took control of the farm four years ago and have spent the last three working to purify the soil. They see themselves carrying on the vision of the late Barbara MacArthur, who with her late husband, Alex, ran the Strathmore Organic Farm at the same location on Spring Creek Road in McHenry County. Barbara MacArthur, who died last year, was a passionate pioneer of organic farming, decades ahead of its rising popularity today.

To read the full Daily Herald article, click here.

Editor’s note:  The Daily Herald incorrectly identifies the fields as being in the McHenry County section of Barrington Hills.  Readers will recall that most of the property controlled by the Farm’s trust was de-annexed from the Village during the last decade, and these fields are actually located in unincorporated McHenry County.

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audio_tape_revox_pr99-203Audio recordings from the July 24th, 2017 meeting of the Board of Trustees have been posted. To access the menu of recordings edited by agenda item, click here.

Most of the brief meeting consisted of routine business, but, again, property owned by Barrington Hills Farm LLC (BHFarm) provided the most interesting fodder for discussion.  As we mentioned previously, the owner(s) of the unoccupied property at 2400 Spring Creek Road had been cited for demolition of a residence without a building permit and for removal of two posted Stop Work Order signs. Additionally, many trees and much vegetation had been removed without a permit required under the village’s Heritage Tree Ordinance.

Trustee Colleen Konicek asked Administrator Bob Kosin for an update on the situation.  The issue of the removal of the Stop Work Order signs is currently in the hands of the village prosecutor, and the courts will be left to determine if the violation did take place, and what fines, if any, should be imposed.  Kosin went on to state that the necessary demolition permit had now been obtained, albeit AFTER the fact, and that according to the demolition contractor, none of the work to remove the debris from the demolition of the 2900 sq. ft. home had required an overweight permit.  Trustee Brian Cecola strongly questioned the notion that a residence of that size could be taken down without the need for an overweight permit.  Konicek pressed the issue further, asking Kosin what evidence had been provided that an overweight permit had not been required? Kosin was forced to admit there was no evidence, just the word of the contractor. We wonder how many other residents would be afforded this same benefit of the doubt.

On the issue of the trees that had been removed, Kosin stated that the Village’s tree contractor had been sent out, and he determined that no heritage trees had been lost or jeopardized on the site, again AFTER the fact, and that the property owner had been appropriately billed (and paid ) for the arborist’s inspection fee. Kosin expressed supreme confidence in the arborist’s psychic abilities to determine the species of trees which had been removed, without ever having seen them.  We don’t quite understand how this was possible — perhaps he conducted a DNA analysis of the sawdust residue?

President Martin McLaughlin expressed concern about the objectivity of the arborist, Chuck Stewart, who had performed the study of the property, because Stewart rents office space in a building owned by one of the members of the board of Barrington Hills Farm. Trustee Michelle Maison was also troubled by this perceived conflict of interest and inquired if another independent tree analysis should be conducted.

McLaughlin then brought up the issue of the deannexation request (dated July 17, 2017) for 2400 Spring Creek Road. Back in the fall, the trust controlling BHFarm had expressed interest in annexing ALL of the former Duda property back into the Village during a friendly 2 1/2 hour staff meeting during which the village outlined two timelines to complete the annexation petition process. He found it odd that first they wanted to annex into the village, and now they want to annex out of the village. He also reminded the new Board members about the trust’s previous request for an easement for its proposed HARPS facility (which still has not broken ground).  The trust had wanted an easement, requested it, constructed the legal documents for it, and when the Board agreed to it, the trust wanted the easement out.

McLaughlin described how the Village has gone out of its way to say “yes” numerous times to requests by BHFarm, and explained how the Village has tried to work with the individuals representing BHFarm, only to have the trust change their minds about things that they themselves had asked for.  He likened dealing with the BHFarm trust as doing the Hokey Pokey — they want the easement in, they want the easement out, they want to annex in, they want to annex out. All of it, he said, amounted to much silliness, and in our opinion, wasting of board and staff time, not to mention taxpayer dollars.

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Doing the annexation hokey pokey

Trustee Paula Jacobsen wondered why the village couldn’t have employed a warmer and fuzzier process to inform the property owner of their violation of the cease and desist order, perhaps by placing a personal phone call. Jacobsen was either playing dumb in thinking that property owners’ phone numbers are listed on property deeds, or perhaps she was pandering to BHFarm’s board which is headed by a prominent donor to her recent trustee campaign. Her point seemed to be that the property owner was not being treated in a neighborly manner, despite the fact that the only publicly available contact information is an street address in Chicago. Never did she place any onus on the property owner who apparently assumed that it was okay to knock down a house without consulting the municipal authorities in advance. Maybe she has never heard of the expression “ignorance of the law is no excuse”?

And, if the village had gone to extreme lengths to track down a telephone number in this particular instance, wouldn’t that create a dangerous precedent for the village’s future contacts with other property owners?  AND, does Jacobsen really believe that the contractor(s) who removed the trees and demolished the residence didn’t inform their employer of the Stop Work Order?

Those conversations can be heard here.

Later in the meeting, during discussion of the disconnection petition itself, Village Attorney Mary Dickson described the legal requirements for disconnection and confirmed that the subject property meets all of them. However, the village cannot act on such a petition sooner than 30 days after receiving it, and, as a result, the attorney will prepare an ordinance for possible action at the next Board meeting in August.

Dickson cautioned that any penalties regarding the cease and desist order violation pending in court should be resolved and that any other monies due to the Village should be paid PRIOR to the Board of Trustees taking final action on BHFarm’s petition.

Jacobsen continued to puzzle over the reason for the disconnection request into unincorporated McHenry County, and asked if the petitioner would be making a presentation to the Board explaining the reasons for the disconnection.  Dickson explained that no such presentation is legally necessary.  (We suggest that Jacobsen pick up the telephone a place a neighborly phone call if she wants to quench her curiosity.) Attorney Dickson opined that maybe developmental rights are the reason, and perhaps the best prospects for the owner’s desired development of the property may lie with the county rather than the village. We’d say that Ms. Dickson hit the nail on the head with that assessment.

The disconnection discussion can be heard here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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unnamedA late addition to a newly approved residential development that could add more than 1,000 units in Hoffman Estates still hasn’t changed the minds of officials at Barrington School District 220.

The Barrington-based district has opposed the development since the project developer, 5a7 LLC in Barrington, proposed building residences on 185 acres near routes 59 and 72, arguing the massive housing project would overcrowd certain District 220 schools near the site.

Hoffman Estates officials decided to delay a vote on the proposal earlier this spring after District 220 and other area taxing bodies resoundingly rejected a proposed tax-increment-financing district for the project but they forged ahead Monday, agreeing unanimously to annex the proposed acreage into Hoffman Estates.

Village officials also approved a late addition to the proposal meant to address concerns raised by District 220 and nearby Algonquin-based School District 300, including a 5.5-acre parcel that would be developed into a new school building.

Martin McLaughlin, board president of Barrington Hills, called the addition of the 5.5 acres for a new school “a low-ball offer.”

“And the housing development does not fit with the character of area of routes 52 and 72, especially with high-rise buildings going in,” he said.

To read the full article in the Barrington Courier-Review, click here.

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PlumFarmAerial Hoffman Estates village board members Monday unanimously approved a development agreement and rezoning for 185 acres at the northwest corner of routes 59 and 72 for the often controversial Plum Farms residential and commercial subdivision.

The biggest revision to the agreement before its approval was the village’s requirement of a minimum 5.5-acre school site donation.

Barrington Unit District 220 board President Brian Battle said his district and Community Unit District 300 both believe that unless that site happened to be next to a park, it likely wouldn’t be enough.

Nevertheless, he saw it as an improvement.

“For the village to dictate the minimum size is better than nothing,” Battle said. “We’d like to see that number boosted a little. … We’re still concerned about the density (of the development) and what it does to our taxpayers.”

Battle said the developers told him they would try to address the school districts’ concerns in their final plans. But he told village board members the two districts would wish to be involved in the review of those plans as early as possible.

To read the full article in the Daily Herald, click here.

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