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updated: 1/25/2019 1:45 PM

400+ turn out for hearing on Sugar Grove business park plan

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Opposition to a proposal to turn most of 760 acres of farmland and woods into a business park near I-88 and Route 47 in Sugar Grove remains strong, judging by the roughly 440 people who showed up Wednesday night for the second installment of a plan commission hearing.

Some of them have hired an attorney, Michael Coghlan, an expert in land-use law and real estate development, to represent them.

And some are angry the site is already being advertised to potential buyers and tenants.

The Sugar Grove Economic Development Corp. has 400 acres of it listed on the "available sites" part of its website. The listing, by broker Newmark Knight Frank, says the land "is zoned for warehouse/distribution, manufacturing, light industrial, office, R & D, data centers, medical facilities, retail and commercial."

It shows diagrams of seven buildings with 4 million square feet of building space and 959 exterior truck docks.

However, the land has not been zoned for such use.

The Sugar Grove EDC is a public-private corporation for promoting Sugar Grove. The IRS lists village President Sean Michels as its principal officer. The website directs callers interested in doing business in Sugar Grove to call a village employee, whose job title is "economic development coordinator."

Sugar Grove LLC, a Crown Community Development company, is asking the village to designate the land as a planned development district. It says the land is ideally suited to building warehouses and distribution centers. It could include some houses on about 98 acres on the south end of the site.

Sugar Grove annexed some of the land in 2013 and gave it "estate residential" zoning, which allows one house per acre. It is not uncommon for towns to give such zoning to land they annex, until a developer submits detailed plans for the land.

Opponents on Wednesday spoke about the air pollution they believe will come from trucks coming to and from the business park each day. A geology professor from Northern Illinois University, who lives nearby, spoke about whether stormwater runoff would contain materials that would contaminate the shallow aquifer from which residents' private wells draw water.

"This will increase noise, create air pollution and light up our nighttime skies with lighting that will never cease," said Kane County Board District 5 Representative Bill Lenert, who built a home near the site about 18 months ago.

He also noted that the village may provide incentives for the development via a tax-increment financing district. Lenert said that amounts to the developer "asking for tax-free profits on the backs of Sugar Grove residents and businesses."

In a TIF district, property tax payments to government bodies are frozen for up to 23 years. During that time, any additional property taxes generated are used to pay for improvements that made the site more valuable, typically infrastructure such as roads and utilities.

Resident James Huguelet asked the commission to postpone the hearing and any action. Instead, the village should re-review its comprehensive plan in a way that "meaningfully engages stakeholders in the community," he said.

The plan was adopted in 2005, after a two-year review that included community workshops. In 2014, it was amended to add business park use to part of the area. In was last updated in 2018, when more of the land was designated for business park and less for residential estates.

"I would respectfully suggest that we have a significant disconnect between the current village comprehensive plan and its voters," Huguelet said, pointing to the crowd. "Because without such a review, I foresee many years of rancor and debate."

Eighty-five people signed up Jan. 23 to address the commission. About 20 have spoken so far.

The hearing will resume at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Academic and Professional Center at Waubonsee Community College, Route 47 and Waubonsee Drive.