Last month, several residents asked a Kane County Board committee to block a new industrial company, and its trucks, from moving into their neighborhood just outside Elgin's city limits. On Tuesday, the number of protesting residents doubled in number, and they brought a slew of emotions in a renewed plea to the same committee. The response from committee members indicated officials may feel they don't have much power to stop the proposal.
The Northfield Block Company/Oldcastle owns the site. Once upon a time the land was home to a concrete and brick yard near Highland Avenue and Coombs Road. It wants to sell the 5-acre site to the Road Handler Express company of South Elgin. The long-haul trucking company then would use the site as an operating base for the 15 trucks it currently owns. An attorney for the trucking company estimates no more than three to 5 trips entering or leaving the site on an average day.
But Sherida Eilrich and 200 of her neighbors don't want the noise, smells or sites of an industrial company in their neighborhood. Choking back tears, Eilrich told committee members the land has been vacant for years. Neighbors had no idea an industrial trucking company could move in. They believed the entire surrounding area was destined for residential growth.
"We stand in unison," Eilrich said as nearly the entire audience in a packed county board room rose to their feet. "Would you want to raise your children or grandchildren near this?"
Neighbors voiced several concerns about increased traffic, safety and the possibility of the number of trucks increasing over time. But after more than 40 minutes of listening to the perceived downside of the plan, committee members told neighbors the trucking company may be as good a neighbor as they could hope for at the site.
The problem is the land is zoned for industrial use. That means any industrial operation that currently fits in with the permitted uses in that zoning could move onto the site, and there would be nothing the county board could do to stop it. This particular trucking operation requires a county board vote because that is not a specifically permitted use for the site. That said, the county's development department, transportation division and health department have already signed off on the trucking operation as appropriate for the site.
County board member Cathy Hurlbut represents the district where the trucking company wants to move. She told neighbors the trucking operation is a less intense use than some of the other permitted uses for the land, which would include a possibly much busier warehousing operation.
"This property is extremely blighted right now," Hurlbut said. "There are dead animals. The buildings have been falling apart. It is a health hazard the way it sits today. With this project we're looking at improving the property. I think this is an appropriate use for this site."
Hurlbut's position met with grumbles from the audience. Board member Mike Donahue indicated he can foresee the issue going to court no matter how the county board votes.
A clerical snafu left the issue off the committee's formal agenda. That meant the committee could not vote on the proposal. Instead, the matter will move to the county board's executive committee next month. If it survives that panel, the full county board would vote on the plan after the November election. Elgin officials have taken a stand against the trucking operation. Like the current residents, Elgin officials envision residential development to replace the industrial use as part of the city's comprehensive plan.