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updated: 3/1/2011 9:12 PM

Committee votes against Bettendorf Castle plan

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Bettendorf Castle in Fox River Grove will most likely not turn into a space for tours and events any time soon.

The village's public health and safety committee unanimously voted Tuesday night against a proposed zoning text amendment that would have allowed Bettendorf owners Michael and Judy Strohl to pursue a plan to host activities in the castle, which has been their home since the 1980s.

Committee chairman Duane Figurski and committee members Michael Ireland, Gerald Menzel and Steve Knar voted against the text amendment, which would have created a special use permit for historic buildings and grounds in certain residential areas that abut certain residential districts.

All four committee members serve on the village board, which is scheduled to hear the matter on March 17.

"Four trustees out of six have voted against it," Fox River Grove Village President Robert Nunamaker said after the meeting, attended by about 50 people. "If they don't change their mind, it will probably die here."

Last month, 29 residents signed a letter objecting to the Strohls' plan to host weddings, celebrations and other activities in the castle.

Karen Wrobbel, who lives across the street from the castle, located at 411 Concord Ave., said she was concerned about the increased traffic along the sharply-curved street.

Another resident said she feared for the safety of children in the neighborhood because alcohol would be served during functions at the castle.

Resident Kevin Long questioned how garbage would be transported off the property.

Jaki Berggren, manager of group sales for the McHenry County Convention of Visitors Bureau, said "quite a few tour groups" have expressed interest in visiting the castle. The Strohls' plan calls for up to 95 parking spaces in the 1.75-acre property, with remote parking available in locations such as Norge Ski Club.

McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission chairman Nick Chirikos said that the property is "commonly recognized," even if not formally designated, as historic because of its architectural style, construction methods and materials.

"The Bettendorf Castle is far more than a home. It is a fixture and a feature of Fox River Grove that needs to be preserved and recognized as a permanent historical structure in the village for now and for the future," he said. ""We cannot afford to have this closed off."

But several residents objected to calling the castle, which was built by immigrant Ted Bettendorf between 1931 and 1967, "historic."

"There is nothing historic about it," resident Diana Durso said. "It has a unique presence in Fox River Grove, that's about it."

Committee member Steve Knar said he was concerned the Strohls' proposal amounted to spot zoning.

"I don't see any benefit to anybody else except the owner of the property," he said.

The Strohls' attorney, David Curfman, argued the text amendment would affect any R2 property abutting B2 districts, not just Bettendorf Castle.

Committee member Ireland called the language of the petition "crafted."

"I've been around, I can read, I have common sense," he said.

The Strohls proposal is not in the best interest of the residents, Ireland said. "Is this going to increase the quality of life of the community? Today I have to look at you and say no."

The village board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 17 at 301 Illinois St. in Fox River Grove.