St. Charles area men want government to leave them alone

Two St. Charles area men have formed a bond over their mutual disdain for government telling them what they can and can't do on their property. Both men say they will fight as long and hard as they can to ensure they are able to live their lives the way they, and perhaps God, want them to.

Angelo Valdes and members of the Valley View-based H.E.L.P.S. Ministry recently spent time at Cliff McIlvaine's St. Charles home cutting the grass, trimming the hedges and pulling weeds. Some of that work may help McIlvaine get back in the good graces of St. Charles city officials. McIlvaine is engaged in a court battle with city officials regarding a home improvement project he's been working on for the past 36 years.

“By me doing most of this stuff myself over the years, it's taken awhile,” McIlvaine said. “You can't just snap your fingers and make it happen overnight.”

A recent court ruling will ensure McIlvaine's project is complete in about a year. But McIlvaine said that's only part of the battle. City officials want McIlvaine to stop using rainwater for his indoor plumbing and drinking water. Officials believe McIlvaine's system is a health hazard. McIlvaine believes the city's water is far more toxic than what falls out of the sky naturally. For evidence, he points to a black, gummy substance he's repeatedly scraped out of his toilet's water tank. That tank is fed by city water. The rest of McIlvaine's home uses rainwater through a cistern and a double-filtration system.

“They asked me about birds flying over and defecating on my roof (and contaminating the rain water),” McIlvaine said. “So what? The only thing that matters is what comes out of the water faucet. Rainwater is pure water. If I do what they want me to do and switch to city water, I'll probably be dead in five years.”

McIlvaine has promised to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. When he's there, he might find Valdes on the docket as well.

Valdes said he came to McIlvaine's aid because McIlvaine helped him install a fire alarm system. That help came in the midst of Valdes' attempts to open a homeless shelter through his ministry. The plan put Valdes at odds with some neighbors who did not want to see him running such a facility in their neighborhood. Kane County officials told Valdes last year he couldn't have his shelter. Valdes opened it anyway.

“Zoning didn't approve it, but what do I care?” Valdes said. “My biggest mistake was asking for approval and not just listening to what God told me to do. I already have the highest approval. It's something I have to do. If someone needs shelter, we will offer it to you. We'll deal with the fallout when it comes. “What will they do? Are they going to chain the doors on my own building? I'll get bolt cutters and cut them off. They tried to deny our rights to worship. ... They don't want to go there.”

Valdes said he views what's being done to McIlvaine as a similar injustice. If it's not illegal government intervention, Valdes said, it's a violation of American freedom and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“It's just more government gone wild,” Valdes said. “When does it end?”

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St. Charles, man reach partial deal on 36-year project

  Leaders of the H.E.L.P.S. Ministry in Valley View were told they could not open a homeless shelter by county officials, but the shelter is up and running today. James Fuller/