Of all the community concerns expressed about the St. Charles Countryside Fire Protection District going independent with its own fire stations, the most difficult obstacle may be the ticking clock attached to the plan.
The district's contract with the city of St. Charles for fire service ends April 30. The district must be ready to be up and running on its own by then. But an unforeseen review process to open a fire station in Campton Hills could compromise the timing of the district's plans, district President Jim Gaffney said.
Gaffney said district trustees never expected any type of permit review process. No such process was discussed two years ago when the fire district expressed a desire to open a fire station in Campton Hills to cut response times, Gaffney said.
"Why is it that, all of a sudden, now that I want to move over into a little bit better location, we have a zoning problem?" Gaffney said. "Wouldn't it be more advantageous for (Campton Hills Village President) Patsy Smith to sit down with her board and say, 'Let's work with these guys and come to a conclusion.' I would think that they would want to work with us because this will be a betterment to their community instead of putting up roadblocks and working with St. Charles to stop us."
That doesn't seem to be Smith's view of the nature of the disagreement. Just a few days ago, village residents received an e-mail saying trustees are bound by the village's zoning laws. The current zoning laws don't allow a fire station in the area of Route 64 between La Fox and Burlington roads where the fire district wants to put it.
However, "the village plan commission is currently considering a recommendation to amend the village zoning ordinance to allow fire stations by approval of a special use permit," Smith wrote.
That special use permit process requires a public hearing where residents can voice their opinions. That process also is likely to include some discussion of what a suitable new fire station should look like as a condition of approval of the permit.
Asked what a new fire station would look like, Gaffney said anything the district built would be an improvement.
"Drive by and look at what's there now," Gaffney said. "We couldn't do any worse."
Gaffney said he wants to meet with Smith as soon as possible in hopes "cooler heads will prevail." Campton Hills will meet Dec. 21 to discuss changing the village's zoning laws to accommodate a fire station.