Decision on third Barrington Countryside fire station expected in September
Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals members are expected to make a recommendation in September on whether Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District should be allowed to build a new station its leaders say is needed to improve service on the agency's east side.
The zoning panel Wednesday concluded a two-session public hearing that featured testimony on the proposal, which calls for a 10,000-square-foot station on roughly 5 acres at 1004 S. Hough St. The land sits just outside the borders of Barrington Hills and Barrington in unincorporated Cook County.
The advisory panel is being asked to recommend a special-use permit allowing the station in a residential neighborhood zoned for single-family homes.
Barrington Countryside Chief James Kreher and other proponents say the third station would reduce response times and benefit residents in Inverness and nearby areas.
Opponents have voiced concerns about noise, traffic and the firehouse lowering the value of surrounding properties.
Kreher said during the hearing that another appropriate property is not available. Because 95% of the district is without hydrants, it's necessary to get to structure fires quickly, he added.
"Fire doubles (in size) every minute," Kreher said. "New houses are being built (with) lightweight construction. They fail much quicker. You need to get to those residences to stop the spread of fire and get the residents out so they can be saved."
Jim Arie, the recently retired village of Barrington fire chief, disputed the lack of hydrants that Kreher cited. He also said that because fire departments routinely help each other, Barrington Countryside can receive backup if response time is an issue.
"It's not strategically or geographically located," Arie said of the proposed fire station site. "It's on the fringe of Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District."
Barrington Hills resident Thomas McGrath, whose Hawthorne Road house is on the western border of the site, submitted a petition signed by fellow homeowners opposed to the proposal.
"Believe me, the 50 people who signed the petition who live in the exact location they want to put this fire station do not believe it will increase their happiness or their well-being, so (the district) does not meet that standard of (county) approval," McGrath said.
The district's tentative deal to buy the 5 acres hinges on the county granting a special-use permit, Kreher said. The entire project could cost $3 million to $5 million, if approved.
Barrington Countryside already has received Illinois Department of Transportation approval to install a flashing light to warn drivers about exiting fire trucks or ambulances at the entrance to the Hough Street site.
District efforts for a third station elsewhere were blocked last year, when the county denied a special-use permit and zoning variances needed to build at 36 E. Dundee Road. That plan called for converting a vacant house into a station on an acre between Barrington Middle School-Prairie Campus and an early learning center.
The district currently has two firehouses to cover its 48-square-mile territory. The district provides fire and emergency medical service to residents in portions of Barrington Hills, South Barrington, Lake Barrington and Inverness, as well as sections of unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.
A decision from the zoning panel is expected when it meets Sept. 2., officials said.