The village of Lake in the Hills has condemned property twice since 2007 to acquire property for its airport improvement project.
The latest acquisition has the former owner in a fury. He claims he was forced off the property in June only to witness the village's search for a new tenant this month. The village denies his accusations.
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The village most recently used its condemnation powers to acquire an acre on Pyott Road owned by Dave and Julie Snelten, owners of Snelten Inc., a trucking and excavation company. Village officials couldn't agree with the Sneltens on a fair price for the property, which ultimately landed both sides in court where a judge decided the village should pay about $450,000 for it.
Private landowners are required by law to sell property to government entities for public use. In this case, the village wants to build a new access road through the former Snelten property to a new apron area of the airport and, eventually, new hangar facilities once they develop.
Lake in the Hills Village Administrator Gerald Sagona said he expects construction to break ground on the road next spring. The project, which will be paid for primarily by state and federal funds, was recently approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Dave Snelten said he isn't opposed to the project and even offered to sell his land to the village years ago -- but for the right price. In this case, he said he and his wife were paid $50,000 less than the property was appraised for. And since they moved to a new location in McHenry, Snelten said it costs their trucking operation more than $200 extra each day because of fuel and wages, all while their former building sits empty in Lake in the Hills.
The last straw was $40,000 worth of damages from flooding in McHenry last week that hardly touched the Pyott Road property.
"If the village would have just let us stay there until they tore the building down, none of this would have happened," Snelten said.
Sagona said the village offered to let Snelten Inc. keep its offices until they were demolished, but the Sneltens declined, a point Dave Snelten adamantly denies.
Now the village has the building up for lease.
Sagona said the space could be used for short-term storage during the next year. Leasing it out, Sagona said, is in the best interests of taxpayers.
"We're trying to do our best to achieve any revenues off the property while we're waiting for construction to begin," Sagona said. "We're trying to be good stewards of tax dollars."
The village has been coordinating improvements to the airport for more than 15 years with another decade worth of projects in the pipeline. About 95 percent of funding comes from state and federal agencies.
Getting the Snelten property was the last acquisition between the village and the access road project. Since the sale closed in June, it has been full speed ahead with phase one planning already in the works.