Strong community opposition helps derail proposed ski hill in Round Lake

Strong public opposition in Round Lake helps derail ski hill plan

An avalanche of public opposition helped bury a proposed year-round ski hill in Round Lake and also may have created a foundation for community involvement.

The Round Lake village board ended the hotly contested issue Monday by voting 4-2 against three measures to annex and zone 94 acres north and west of Townline and Fairfield roads.

The proposal was to create a 200-foot ski hill that would utilize a synthetic snow with dirt and clay fill deposited over seven to 10 years on the site.

Opponents who had coalesced into a large, multifaceted grass-roots force were uncertain of the outcome until Trustee Mark Amann, who was appointed earlier in the meeting to fill a vacancy, ended the speculation.

Amann's "no" vote brought an applauding crowd of about 220 people to its feet and averted a tie that would have had to have been broken by Mayor Russell Kraly.

"In the end, the people spoke, the trustees listened and voted, and that's how the system is supposed to work," Kraly said Tuesday.

The meeting was held at John T. Magee Middle School to accommodate an expected heavy turnout. Several police officers were on hand.

The opposition group started with about a dozen residents a few months ago but grew with a united goal and different areas of expertise.

A Facebook group ballooned to 779 members, 120 yard signs were posted, hundreds of fliers were passed out in town and a website was created. Nearly 2,000 signatures in opposition were gathered on an online petition, and a blog chronicled the issue.

Amann said he initially thought a ski hill might be a good idea but changed his view after extensive study of the proposed annexation agreement and other materials.

"I had to go with my conscience and my gut," he said after the meeting. "The bottom line was he (applicant Dan Powell) didn't have any skin in the game. We were at more risk than he was."

Much of the opposition focused on what was described as a lack of detail regarding the proposal, potential impacts on residents and roads from years of heavy truck traffic, and Powell's reported business history.

"My clients and I are grateful that a majority of trustees of the village of Round Lake listened to the evidence and their constituents, and acted with integrity to reject an ill-conceived proposal," said Kenneth J. Ashman, who represents several homeowners on Townline Road.

"It is heartening that small-town democracy still works as intended," Ashman added.

Powell's attorney David L. Shaw said they were "very disappointed," by the vote and was "most disturbed by personal attacks based upon misinterpretations and false allegations." He said the future of the project hasn't been discussed.

Blogger Kim Christesen was among about a dozen speakers Monday preceding the vote.

"Is this the hill you are willing to die on?" she asked the board.

On Tuesday, Christesen said the information gathered and shared with a wide audience spoke for itself.

"Regardless of what the (annexation) agreement stated, what was promised, or what little benefits may or may not have come from this project, the fact remains that the vast majority of the people did not support this proposal with this developer," she said.

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  Speakers line up to address the Round Lake village board Monday in opposition to a proposed annexation and zoning for a year-round ski hill. Mick Zawislak/
  People in the crowd stand and applaud Monday after the Round Lake village board voted 4-2 to reject a proposal to annex and zone property for a proposed year-round ski hill. Mick Zawislak/
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