McHenry County Green Alliance

We are residents of McHenry County, Illinois who are concerned about the direction our 2030 Land Use Plan is taking.  We want to protect and preserve our farmland, our precious water supply and our open space. Our 2030 plan as currently written, does not do that.

There have been some changes since this page was first posted.  They are below in red. The rest of the information is still valid. Please go to the Green Alliance Blog for the latest information.

Comments to 2030 Land Use Plan, July 10, 2009


Whose Plan Is This?

The new Planning Commission, appointed after the failure of both 2020 plans, was a fresh start and the promise of a plan that would fairly represent all interests in the county. We were wrong. A shift in the membership of the commission resulted in a loss of the initial balance in favor of a “pro-development” majority on the commission. This majority changed the previously agreed upon procedure and began pushing it’s own agenda through, working privately in the background with sources they refused to name.  As a result, the product is flawed, and not truly representative of all county residents.


The county cannot plan for land that is already in municipalities, it can only plan for unincorporated land, which is primarily in District 6.  Of the 24 County Board members who will vote on this plan, only 4 represent unincorporated county residents in District 6. The other 20 represent municipalities primarily on the east side of the county that are rapidly outgrowing their resources due to poor planning. 


Residents of these municipalities should be (and many are) as concerned about preserving resources in what’s left of rural McHenry County as residents of unincorporated areas.  We are in this together. Many residents indicated these priorities in the Imagine McHenry County survey that was promoted as a cornerstone building block for this plan.  Respect for the plain outcome of that survey by all the plan commission members, would have eliminated the inherent conflicts we see in this plan.



Remove the Industrial, Commercial and Mineral Resources MAP. The Map referred to in this section has been removed from the plan.  Text supporting this kind of expansive development still remains.

The centerpiece of the Economic Development chapter, the composite map showing nearly half the land west of Rt. 47 as set aside for industry, retail centers and gravel pits, and all related text, MUST be removed from the plan. Areas set aside on the map include prime farmland in direct conflict with the protection goals of the Agriculture chapter. The areas set aside encompass prime farmland, sensitive ecosystems, and in several cases, existing MCCD and/or private properties, in direct opposition to the chapters on Water Resources and Open Space.


When members of the public asked members of the disbanded ED Subcommittee, whether the Illinois Natural Area Inventory maps, aquifer recharge maps and local soil maps were considered in developing the ED chapter maps, one member dismissively stated that ‘no, we didn’t consider those at all”. It is a clear invitation to spot zoning and destruction of large tracts of farmland. The map and all related text MUST be removed from the plan.


We have been told that it is just an “exhibit”, a suggestion, and that those lands are merely being reserved so that homes are not built there which would then prevent development as gravel pits. But we all know, once it is on a map, it is a plan. It is a done deal.  You cannot deny rezoning to that use if it is on the map as such. If the commission wants to preserve farmland as they say they do, then this map MUST be removed from the plan.


Preserve Our Farmland

The Agriculture chapter encourages the county to set aside prime farmland for future generations and to keep it in farming as much as possible.  However the attitude of the majority bloc on the commission is that they are only reserving it for a time, “until it is needed for something else”.  How shortsighted! 


Agriculture is the dominant land use in the western area of the county.  Indeed the 2009-2010 County Yearbook, “Facts to Remember” indicates that there are 1035 farms in the county comprising 55% of the county land mass.  Agriculture is a primary economic engine in the County.  Agriculture contributes nearly 15% of the County’s non-residential tax base.


The June 2009 National Geographic has an article on the global food crisis.  In the near future, our rich McHenry County soil going to be much more valuable as farmland than it will be with pavement on it.  Preserving our farmland should be a concern to all county residents, not just the farmers and unincorporated residents.


High Density Development

The Community Character draft chapter strongly encourages higher density housing in the county. This is poor planning. Higher density development has its place in rapidly urbanizing municipalities.  All development, residential included, must be in or near municipalities so that the basic infrastructure is already there.  Roads, water and sewer, fire protection, schools, waste removal, etc can be immediately available without unnecessary wasteful spending of our tax dollars. Residential development increases traffic wherever it is placed, but is worse on rural roads that were not meant to accommodate the increase.


Population Increases

We have heard Commission Members say, “people are coming, we have to make room for them.”  This is utter nonsense. People will not move to McHenry County if new residential housing is not available. In discussions about the projected population increase to our county, one of the commission members ventured the opinion that “we should first determine how many people we can accommodate and then plan”(paraphrased) rather than accepting the projections as inevitable. Although this should be the primary objective of any Land Use Plan, he was dismissively ignored. Green Alliance submitted Proposed Amendments to the Plan, the first of which was s discussion of the population projection and a request for reduction. The Planning and Devlopment Committee of the County board, did reduce the population projection by 45.000 people, about half of what Green Alliance requested.


Water Resources

Perhaps most important factor of all is the availability of water.  McHenry County gets all of its drinking water from the ground.  If you cover up the ground, no rain gets in and refills the supply below. If you withdraw more than is getting in, you run out.  County water studies show that several of the eastern townships are already overdrawing and exhausting their share of the local supply of water due to poor planning. Why should we repeat those same mistakes in the western townships?


The Water Resources chapter of the plan was the first one completed. Although this chapter has been “homogenized” by the planning firm hired to rewrite it, it still provides valuable guidance in policies that can protect our water supply for generations to come. Those policies should become mandates. Fresh water is finite.  We must protect it.




 For years residents of McHenry County have been duped by the erroneous promise that development lowers taxes. With the extraordinary development of the last 10 years, have we seen a reduction in our tax bills? Of course not. Quite to the contrary, development is subsidized by existing taxpayers who must pay for the new schools, widened highways, additional water and sewer, police and fire, and other urban infrastructure. The 2030 Plan admits, “it will require up front public investments that will take decades to deliver measurable benefits.”  Redevelopment within municipalities where the infrastructure is already in place can pay large benefits. But urban sprawl is a net loss to the communities and, especially with rising transportation costs, makes no economic sense.



Communication/Public Input

The Plan Commission’s communication with the public has been minimal and ineffective - a web site that the general public does not know about and an email list that is gleaned from the meetings sign-in sheets and is never used. In an undertaking of this importance, there is an obligation to reach out and inform the public through any measures available. Offered solutions, from brochures, blogs, flyers and paid ads in the local newspaper, have been ignored. One of the most critical parts of planning is involving the affected public in the process.  The average resident does not even know a plan is being developed, much less have any grasp of the content or understanding of it’s potential impact on their future.



Thank you for permitting us to comment on the 2030 Land Use Plan that will determine our future as residents of McHenry County.  




The McHenry County Green Alliance

Joe Daleiden, Rich and Sonja Brook, Kim Willis, Joyce Kunath, Michelle Kuhlman, Gina LeFevre, John Kunzie, Jane Collins, Patricia Kennedy, Emily Berendt


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