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Archive for the ‘Conflict of interest’ Category

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.

minion-hokeypokey-o

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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The Observer takes a look back at another year gone by, as we present the most frequently read news stories and editorials for 2016. Click on any title to read and revisit stories from this past year.

August 30th Zoning Board public hearing recordings published

Our most read and most commented upon story of 2016, this article summarized the August 30th Zoning Board meeting which concluded the public hearings on the latest text amendment proposal for commercial horse boarding codes.

WARNING: Beware of phantom developers!

This story discussed a fear-mongering letter that was mailed to residents throughout the  village, containing unsubstantiated claims of Barrington Hills once again being imperiled by greedy developers.

Why Anderson II must go

In October, the Observer reviewed the myriad of flaws in the Anderson II commercial boarding ordinance and explained the importance of reinstating boarding under the Home Occupation Ordinance.

There they go again

Despite the misinformation repeated at many recent meetings, archived Village Board minutes from 1960 show that village leaders then did not approve of commercial equestrian activities on residential properties, having shut down a riding school for being in violation of village code.  This feature also drew the second most comments of any story for 2016.

June Village Board Meeting Recordings Released

Our review of the Board of Trustees June meeting covered several topics, but focused primarily on the ongoing delays with the reconstruction of the Cuba Road Bridge (now known as Veteran’s Crossing Bridge).  The article highlighted the lack of proper oversight of the project by Gewalt Hamilton, as well as some confusing explanations of the situation by Village Administrator Bob Kosin.

Here we go again

As the Zoning Board of Appeals was about to begin a review of the commercial horse boarding code, the Observer dispelled a long list of oft-repeated fallacies, fictions and lies concerning equestrian activities and horse boarding in this column from July.

Candidates file for April 2017 Village Elections

The title speaks for itself in this most recent top story, highlighting the high level of resident interest in our village government.

Park District to begin charging user fees for Riding Center

The July announcement by the Park District of its intention to set up a fee structure for resident and n0n-resident users of the Riding Center drew a large audience.

Documents added to ZBA horse boarding code hearing package

In the days leading up to the August 30th ZBA meeting, readers were eager to review the 291 pages of documentation that had been submitted to the Zoning Board in the form of court documents, resident and Village official emails, affidavits, Village engineering and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reports and form letters.

 

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Four seats on the Barrington Hills Board of Trustees are up for election in the April 4, 2017 Consolidated Elections, and the Riding Club of Barrington Hills seems to be aiming for all four now that candidates have filed with the Village Clerk on Monday.

Running for the office of President are:

  • Martin J. McLaughlin* (Independent)
  • Louis Iacovelli (Riding Club)

Those running for three Trustee positions are:

  • Colleen Konicek Hannigan* (Independent)
  • Paula Jacobsen (Riding Club)
  • Elaine M. Ramesh (Riding Club)
  • Matthew P. Vondra (Independent)
  • Robert M. Zubak (Riding Club)
  • Ralph Sesso (Independent)
  • Linda H. Cools (Independent)

Incumbent Trustees Fritz Gohl and Mike Harrington are not running for re-election in April, however Gohl will be running unopposed for trustee to the Barrington Township Board of Directors.

*Incumbent

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Friday FlashbackFollowing are some of the articles published by The Observer in November in the last few years. These articles, gathered from various publications and editorials, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community.

Despite changes, horse boarding controversy continues – 2011

Embattled horse farm owners say they have been complying with the Village of Barrington Hills zoning code and its president agreed, though neighbors still insist the farm is operating illegally and should be shut down.

Benjamin and Cathleen LeCompte, owners of Oakwood Farms in Barrington Hills, and Village President Robert Abboud said the farm has changed a few operation standards, and has been in compliance with the village’s Home Occupation Zoning Ordinance since February.

Read the TribLocal article published five years ago here.

An economic proposal to control horse boarding businesses – 2011

This Monday evening, November 14, 2011, the Zoning Board of Appeals will again take up the controversial subject of large-scale commercial horse boarding in our Village.  Numerous proposals have been floated, rejected, and then floated again in recent memory.  Who knows what will come out of Village Hall after Monday’s meeting.  Here is an idea: If large horse boarding businesses are going to be allowed in our Village, at the expense of our quiet residential character, they should pay fees and taxes as businesses.

Read the original Observer editorial here.

Barrington Hills 2012 Resident Survey Results – 2012

On October 22, 2012, The Observer published the Barrington Hills 2012 Resident Survey.  Readers and subscribers participated, as did many of the more than eight hundred residents who received an invitation to take the survey via email.  By the time the survey period closed on Sunday October 28, two hundred twenty-six residents had completed the survey, and eighty-four of them chose to provide their own personal comments and insightful observations based on their years living in the Village.

Revisit the Village survey results from four years ago here.

Better safe than sorry – 2014

Last month during a special Village Board meeting, the Board of Trustees had the opportunity to ask questions of three law firms who were invited to present their qualifications to serve Barrington Hills.  Board members asked representatives of Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle their opinion on whether the Village should undertake legislation changing our Village Code related to horse boarding [Anderson II] when there is active litigation occurring between two private parties if such legislation might affect one party over the other.

David McArdle, a partner with the firm, responded, “We wouldn’t recommend that you pass a rule, pass a law, that favors one party over another.”  When asked again in a different way, he stated, “We wouldn’t recommend that.” (A link to the recording of that discussion can be accessed here).

Read more here.

Season’s first snow is Chicago’s largest November snowfall in 120 years – 2015

The season’s first snowfall dropped as much as 17 inches across Chicago’s northern suburbs, and the total of 11.2 inches at O’Hare International Airport made it the largest November snowfall in 120 years.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune here.

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In the summer of 2014 when the then Zoning Board of Appeals was considering four proposals for amending commercial horse boarding codes, we pointed out how four members of the board at that time had potential conflicts of interest (see “Conflicted”), particularly since one of the proposals was from a private riding club to which the four belonged.

However, what we were unaware of at that time is that an attorney on the Zoning Board, for which the current commercial boarding code was named, has been preparing IRS tax filings for the Riding Club of Barrington Hills since at least 2004.  In fact, just a month before the Riding Club submitted their proposal in June of 2014, this Zoning Board member prepared the 2013 IRS form 990 for the Riding Club as seen below:

(Click on image above to enlarge)

(Click on image above to enlarge)

A complete copy of the 2013 Riding Club tax return can be viewed here,  and historic returns dating back to 2004, including the most recent one filed this year, can be accessed by clicking here (once you access the site, click on the “Tax Documents” tab to view all available filed returns).

Had we been aware of this professional business relationship at the time the Zoning Board was considering adopting new horse boarding code, we would have made residents aware.  This appointed official did not volunteer this information for consideration by the board or counsel before or during the proceedings.

We believe this may be one more reason for the Board of Trustees to concur with the current Zoning Board of Appeals recommendation and vote in favor of repealing the Anderson II codes.  At least then, the current Zoning Board members can begin with a clean slate.

-The Observer

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Following are some of the articles published by The Observer for the month of October in recent years. These articles, gathered from various publications and editorials, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community.

August 2011 Village Board minutes posted – 2011

Excerpt from ZBA report: “Three members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Judith Freeman, Karen Rosene and Kurt Anderson, joined the Board of Trustees in the discussion of commercial boarding.  Ms. Freeman submitted a draft ordinance document regarding commercial boarding and wanted comments back from the Board of Trustees. The ZBA has proposed suggested [sic] a Special Use Permit if boarding ten or more horses.

Trustee Messer felt the Village has no overcrowding issue and we should address the issue when it comes up.  Trustee Meroni felt a Special Use Permit was an unnecessary burden.   Trustee Selman stated that horse boarding should be under Home Occupation.” (see Flip, Flop : What changed your minds Trustees Messer, Meroni and Selman?)

Complete minutes from the August 2011 Village Board meeting can be viewed here.

Developer to sell McHenry County land near Barrington Hills – 2013

A 602-acre property, most of which was disconnected from Barrington Hills during a long, intense legal fight that began early last decade, is being put up for sale by its would-be developer.  The Fritz Duda Co. is asking for $17 million for the jaggedly bordered undeveloped land at Spring Creek and Haegers Bend roads in McHenry County, along Barrington Hills’ border with Algonquin.

Read the Daily Herald story here.

Glimpses back in time at the heritage of Barrington Hills – 2015

VBH Area Map Circa 1940In the years since The Observer began, we’ve been fortunate enough to accumulate some information on the rich history that occurred before and after Barrington Hills was officially incorporated in 1957.  Today seemed to be an appropriate time to share what we’ve discovered with our readers in advance of the third annual Barrington Hills Heritage Fest taking place tomorrow.

Some time ago, a reader shared a map with us depicting what life was like in this area in 1940, and it’s quite a unique contrast from the village we now live in today.

Revisit this well-read article from last year by here.

To settle, or not to settle, that is (not) the question – 2015

We’ve had the opportunity to listen to the recordings from the September 23rd Special Village Board Meeting to hear public comment on whether to settle a suit filed against the Village over the Recent Commercial Horse Boarding code amendment.  Additionally, we’ve read all the published written comments which were submitted (seen here).

Thirty-nine people provided comments for the board to review.  None of them criticized horses, nor did they call for banning boarding in Barrington Hills.  No one called for existing horse boarding operations to be shuttered, and not one complaint was voiced against a neighboring barn, so it’s fair to say current boarding operations (save for one) are not in peril in Barrington Hills based on this small sampling.

Read the original Observer editorial here.

-The Observer

*See “WARNING: Beware of phantom developers!” for more on this year’s Halloween costume of choice among Barrington Hills youths.

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Friday FlashbackFollowing are some of the articles published by The Observer for the month of September in recent years. These articles, gathered from various publications and editorials, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community.

Appellate court sides with Barrington Hills on horse boarding issue – 2011

The village of Barrington Hills has the authority to regulate horse boarding on residential property, according to a recent appellate court ruling that could end at least one part of three-year legal fight over a local horse farm.

Barrington Hills residents Cathleen and Benjamin LeCompte sued the village last year, challenging its jurisdiction over their Oakwood Farms, located on a residentially zoned 130-acre site along Bateman Road.

The couple appeared before Barrington Hills’ zoning board of appeals in August 2008, arguing that the operation — which features a barn large enough to house 60 horses and 110 acres of riding space — is an agricultural use outside the village’s ability to regulate. The zoning board disagreed, and a Cook County court later sided with the village.

Read the full Daily Herald article here.

Zoning Board approves horse boarding text amendment – 2014

The Zoning Board of Appeals met last Thursday evening to discuss, and possibly recommend, one of four horse boarding text amendment proposals that they had heard testimony and public comment on during previous meetings.  By the end of the meeting, the board narrowly approved a text amendment, but it was not one of the four that had been previously been heard by the board and had never before been made available to residents for comment.

Read the original Observer commentary with 33 reader comments here.

Barrington Hills board debates horse boarding plan – 2014

Barrington Hills trustees sent a controversial horse boarding plan back to the village’s zoning board Monday night for clarification on 11 points before they take a vote.

The board’s action came after more than 2½ hours of public comment and board discussion before a large group of residents in the Countryside Elementary School gymnasium.

Critics of the plan, which would allow landowners to board three horses for each acre of property, said it did not receive the proper scrutiny of the zoning board.

Revisit one of the most commented stories ever here.

So why is the Village being sued (again) over commercial horse boarding? – 2015

The simple answer to the question of why we’re being sued is that some elected and appointed Village officials put us in this position last December when they approved a commercial horse boarding amendment to our code which clearly favored one party over another in a private lawsuit that did not involve our Village.

In order to fully understand the rationale behind the suit, residents need to understand the history of one commercial horse boarding operation in the Village that has, in our opinion, consumed an inordinate amount of time, energy and taxpayers’ money for too long now.

Read or revisit the full Observer editorial with reader comments here.

Commercial horse boarding amendment commentary – 2015

When you get right down to brass tacks, the seven of you are called upon to decide whether 5-acre residential zoning standards will be the “only consideration” concerning “development” and “use” on parcels of land in Barrington Hills zoned R-1 (5 acres) or will these residential zoning standards take a “back seat” to commercial enterprise when this enterprise takes the form of “horse boarding for a fee”; on any scale; large or small?

Read this guest essay from a year ago here.

* * * * * * * * *

Editor’s note: Since 2009, 223 articles have been categorized with a reference tag of “Commercial Horse Boarding” including this one in The Observer.

By any measure, this is far too many, and it is our fervent hope the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Trustees can finally come to an agreement in the near future on regulations for horse boarding that all residents can live with for decades to come.  This semi-annual (and sometimes annual) unnecessary dispute between residents is a senseless waste of time and energy, and only serves to continue to divide our community.

-The Observer

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