Archive for the ‘Conflict of interest’ Category

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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Audio recordings from the August 30th Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing regarding a text amendment proposal for horse boarding codes have been released.  The menu of recordings edited by agenda topic from the meeting can be accessed by clicking here.

This third and final hearing held by the Zoning Board on the matter included two hours and forty-five minutes of testimony.  Since this process began in July, the ZBA has heard a total of seven hours of testimony, including what can only be described as an hour of filibustering by the owner of Oakwood Farms at the end of the latest hearing.

Throughout this hearing process, board members have heard very few specific amendment recommendations related to the proposed text amendment, aside from, “It’s too restrictive” or “We don’t like it.” This provided little, if any, guidance for them to make changes to improve it.

As a matter of fact, not one person who testified suggested any modifications to the language itself.

However, board members also heard that the LeCompte/Anderson, or “Anderson II” codes are too liberal leaving neighbors with few, if any, options to protect their peace and privacy, especially should a new boarding and training facility be built next door without anyone asking of they would approve of such a facility.

But what was clearly evident is that many residents felt the Village had no business entertaining any petitions from residents who were currently involved in active court proceedings related to horse boarding.  A number of attorneys, whether residents, or those advising our Board of Trustees, consistently and strongly recommended that the Village not tamper with codes related to a private lawsuit.

Instead of heeding these cautions, the ZBA which was presiding in 2014 marginally approved the LeCompte/Anderson amendment, and then in 2015 by a majority of the Board of Trustees, including three trustees who are no longer on the board,  despite a presidential override of the ill-advised legislation.

Once it was confirmed that everyone who had wished to testify had had their say in the matter, the chair then adjourned the public hearing and opened the public meeting to entertain comments from the members of the Zoning Board.

There was one procedural question regarding the disposition of the amendment, and then about a twenty-minute recap of the history, both good and bad, behind the history of how Barrington Hills has handled, and mishandled, horse boarding zoning codes for over ten years was provided by David Stieper.

His commentary, opinions and citations of Village and court records can be heard here.  Once he concluded his remarks, Stieper then made the following motion:

“The Drury Amendment be adopted to the limited extent that the former Home Occupation Ordinance, which has served this Village so well in recent years, be fully reinstated into the Village Code, and that all other language in the Drury Amendment be rejected for now, and that all language in the Village Code constituting the 2014 Anderson II boarding amendment be rejected, removed from the code and held for naught.  In other words, I move that our Village Code as it relates to horse boarding be restored to that it was in year 2011.”

His motion was seconded, however due to the time limits on the use of the room, the discussion and vote was continued to the next meeting of the Zoning Board scheduled for September 20th at Countryside Elementary School at 6:30 PM.

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Audio recordings from the August 29th Village Board of Trustees meeting have been posted to the Village website.  To access the menu of edited recordings by agenda topic, click here.

Three residents made public comments at the beginning of the meeting.  The comments ranged from a complaint regarding an abandoned home at Braeburn and Spring Creek Roads (heard here), to the Village Tree Ordinance (heard here), and the upcoming hearing on the environmental study of the Longmeadow Parkway project (heard here).

Alice Runvik was then presented an award for 25 years of service to the Barrington Hills Police Department, and the presentation can be heard here.  Alice was unable to attend the previous month’s meeting when awards were presented, and we congratulate her on her milestone of service to our community.

Unfortunately, after this high note of recognition and applause, Trustee Mike Harrington found it necessary to interrupt the proceedings with a point of order regarding the evening’s agenda.  It seems he and Trustee Gohl (or more likely their handlers outside of the boardroom) had requested the agenda to include, “a discussion and vote on whether we should have a public hearing to consider removing Jan Goss from the ZBA.”  He cited a petition including only 102 signatures as the basis for their request.

In the thirteen-minute discussion that ensued, Harrington’s best efforts to create more of the political theater residents are weary of fell flat.

President McLaughlin had asked Gohl (who made the first request) if he had contacted the chairman of the Zoning Board to discuss the matter, and Gohl had not.  McLaughlin explained that it is the Zoning Board chairman’s position to bring forth any issues, and since neither Gohl nor Harrington had afforded the chair the courtesy of input, rather than usurp the chair’s authority, McLaughlin decided not to place the matter on the agenda.

Attorney Patrick Bond then explained it is within the president’s authority to set the agendas of the Board of Trustee meetings per our Village Code, but he also told Harrington he could make a motion to discuss, but not vote on, the matter if he wished.  Harrington declined take advantage of this opportunity for discussion (since Gohl was absent from yet another meeting), instead choosing to protest and waste taxpayer’s money by demanding a written opinion from Bond.

What was not discussed is the fact that Village employee personnel matters are never discussed in public session.  They are always conducted in executive session.  Yet Harrington and Gohl did not want to afford a private citizen the same courtesy, clearly looking to grill a volunteer resident in their proposed public forum.  We find this disgraceful and ill-considered —  no matter whose idea it was.

The recording of this discussion can be heard here, and for the record, we’re told Mr. Goss was in attendance at the meeting.  It’s unknown if any political “handlers” made an appearance, however, but we doubt it.

When the business before the board resumed, the meeting became more productive.

The Village Treasurer reported during the finance report that expenditures are below budget.  She also reported that building permit revenue is “way up” from last year, perhaps indicating the slow housing economy that has dogged Barrington Hills is finally showing some promise.

On the downside, however, she stated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) expenses are “way over” budget for this year, to the tune of 140%, including $23,000 for the prior month alone in legal fees. 

When asked for some explanation during the review of the bills for the expense increase, Patrick Bond reported, “We have received a number of FOIA’s and voluminous requests from Barrington Hills Farm, ah, J.R. Davis was the requestor (see “Barrington Hills Farm”) and also from, ah, Dr. LeCompte (Oakwood Farm).”  That recording can be heard here.

Later in the meeting, the board approved amended and restated code related to the Tree Preservation Ordinance as proposed by the Plan Commission after nearly a year’s worth of work by that body.  The new code has not yet been posted to the Village website, but those interested can check back at a later date by accessing this link.

During the Administration report, trustees were informed that the necessary updates to Village Hall, such as paint, carpeting and bringing bathrooms up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards is estimated to cost approximately $68,000.  After some discussion, the board voted to begin “refreshing” the interior of Village Hall.

The next meeting of the Village Board is scheduled for September 26th.

Editor’s Note:  This review of these recordings marks the 2,000th article published in the Barrington Hills Observer.  We would like to express our thanks to our readers for their continued support, and look forward to providing timely news services to the residents of Barrington Hills in the future.

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The Barrington Hills Park District Board of Commissioners meets this evening at 7:00 PM at the district Riding Center located at 361 Bateman Road.  Topics for discussion include:

  • Riding Center site development with Soos Architects
  • Status of user fees
  • Status of [fundraising] foundation

 A copy of their agenda can be viewed here.

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Phantom Developer

The Zoning Board of Appeals will be holding a continuation of their July meeting this evening at 7:30 PM at Countryside Elementary School.  Tonight’s meeting will include a public hearing followed by a board discussion of a proposed amendment to the current commercial horse boarding codes. A copy of the agenda, including reference documents, can be viewed here.

Many residents have reported they received a form letter over the weekend urging them to attend the meeting.  The letter (seen here) came from a resident who wrote, “Some months ago a clique of [unnamed] area residents associated with [undocumented] high density commercial housing development initiated a subtle, but strategic campaign to defeat and dismantle the statutory defenses that preserve the character of the Village of Barrington Hills.”

As we illustrated in our recent editorial,Here we go again,” playing the unsubstantiated “developer” card has become extremely wearisome to most residents after so many years. 

If “high density commercial housing development,” is the motivation behind the currently proposed amendment, then where was this letter writer’s outcry when recommendations from both the Equestrian Commission (seen here) and an equestrian-laden Zoning Board of Appeals (seen here) advocated very similar guidelines for commercial horse boarding under a previous administration back in 2011?  

In fact, there was little, if any, uproar from the equestrian community at that time, so why is the sky suddenly falling now? 

Frankly, we think residents are too savvy to fall for the incessant cries of “wolf” such as this latest one in every election cycle and every time prudent commercial horse boarding codes are being considered.

However, since he raised the topic of commercial residential development, we’d like to pass along something we recently ran across that should be of interest to residents.

It seems Barrington Hills Farm (whose chairman happens to be the aforementioned letter writer) has engaged a website developer to promote, “600 acres of pristine, undeveloped land located at Haegers Bend and Spring Creek Roads at the northwestern most corner of Barrington Hills,” as depicted below (please click on the image to enlarge for better viewing):

BHF Splash Cropped

We found it interesting that this prototype website (click here to view it) is grouped with other sites under development promoting businesses and commercial developments in Chicago in a staging web address as seen here, so perhaps the chair of Barrington Hills Farm would like to share their development plans sometime sooner than later with residents.

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