by Cal Skinner
In the "All politics is local" file is a referendum in the Chinese dragon shaped McHenry County village of Bull Valley. It used to be that a village or a city couldn't force you to annex unless it surrounded your property.
No more. As I have learned working on the campaign to stop forcible annexation of two farms on Ridge Road, a village like Bull Valley can find six property owners abutting, but not close to surrounding much larger parcels of property and force them into a municipality.
Boy, that Illinois Municipal League is a power force in Springfield. The only recourse the unwilling property owners have is to pass petitions to allow voters to make the final decision.
Last spring I was asked to pass such a petition.
Because of a Federal Appellate Court decision brought about by 1998 Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Jim Tobin, even though I didn't live in the village, the ruling allowed me to seek signatures of 10% of the people who voted in the last village election.
21 were needed; I got about 35. (To run for village board only 11 are needed, but, if you want to run, get 20 so you can withstand any election challenge. The ruling clique is litiginous.)
When attorney Bob Wagner, a former Crystal Lake mayor, tried to file the referendum petition, he found no one would accept the petition.
As he puts it,
"Bull Valley is no Mayberry."
At Village Clerk Phyllis Keinz' home, no one would answer the door multiple times, even though someone put out the garbage can and was on the phone, indications the home was not empty.
Wagner finally had to get a court order to force Bull Valley's lawyers to accept the annexation referendum petitions.
Now, the campaign is in full swing, as anyone driving into or out of Bull Valley can see.
What residents of Bull Valley cannot see are the mailings that residents are receiving.
And the web site:
They point out that, going back to 2001, Bull Valley has spent many, many times more money on paying lawyers than paving roads.
The road program since then has consisted of patching potholes.
Above you see part of Bull Valley Road in the middle of the village. It is the worst road I have ever seen in McHenry County. Pothole patching on top of pothole patching.
How much has the village spent on road repaving since 2001?
As sworn under oath on February 9, 2007, the Licensed Professional Engineer says zilch. (Well, he didn't exactly use that word.)
How much should be spent each year?
$367,300 in 2006 dollars is what his above memo of March 21, 2006 says. (Click to enlarge the print.)
You don't need my master's degree in public administration to figure out that this is a village with whacky priorities.
If you haven't driven through Bull Valley recently, take a look at Shadow Lane in Shadowood, south of the west side of Wonder Lake.
Shadowood is a subdivision in which the village engineer says needed $231,000 for repaving in 2006—before oil prices zoomed.
Shadowood residents sought annexation to Bull Valley to prevent gravel trucks from using Thompson Road to get to Route 120.
Mission accomplished there, but membership has not only privileges, it has counterbalancing disadvantages. Had the subdivision remained unincorporated, the township would have probably repaved the road by now.
Take a look at this subdivision, which lies to the west of Shadowood and is being courted by Bull Valley residents to annex to the village. It's called Thoroughbred Estates and it lies just west of Greenwood Road. Its roads have just been repaved by the Greenwood Township Road Commissioner.
“Never” comes close to predicting when the Village of Bull Valley will be able to afford to make Shadow Lane in Shadowood whole again.
Beyond the land of never, if legal fees continue to consume the 10 times the budget for repaving, as they have since 2001.
The Bull Valley board's answer?
Let's annex more roads.
On May 22, 2006, the village's Licensed Professional Engineer recommended against annexation one of the 120-acre farms when the estate which owns it asked for 40 homes. (Click to enlarge this or any other image.) The homes would be clustered toward the center of the property with 80-acres of open space around the edges. Horse trails, which lifetime resident Ann Kaiser allowed people to use would be continued.
But that wasn't good enough for Bull Valley officials, who refuse to talk to those seeking rezoning.
Of course, Bull Valley prides itself on its 5-acre zoning.
But people in Pine Ridge Estates, the subdivision to the west of the farms forcibly annexed, currently live on 3-acre lots Residents there comprise most of the six petitioners in the hostile takeover attempt of their neighbor's property. Their neighborhood looks nice, but they certainly do not meet the 5-acre zoning that the village board wants to impose on the Ann Kaiser farm, now owned by the many beneficiaries of her estate.
And Bull Valley has just allowed giant Inland Real Estate similar 3-acre zoning at the intersection of Queen Ann and Bull Valley Roads.
That's pretty much the Woodstock gateway to Bull Valley.
McAndrews Glen, on the eastern edge of Bull Valley near the corner of Bull Valley and Draper Roads started out as a 90-acre parcel upon which permission was sought and granted for 30 homes. You see the clustered subdivision part above.
So, 3-acre zoning to the farm's west, at the Woodstock entrance to Bull Valley and at its eastern edge on Bull Valley Road is good enough for the village board, but clustered 3-acre zoning is not good enough for Ann Kaiser's farm at far northeastern edge of the village at the corner of Ridge and Valley Hill Roads.
Across Ridge Road is 1-acre zoning in the City of McHenry. Since both McHenry and Bull Valley have agreed that Ridge Road will be their boundary, there is no chance that the farm could be annexed to the neighboring city.
Annexation to Bull Valley will mean that Ridge and Valley Hill Roads will shift from the responsibility of the township road commissioner, who had adequate money to repave them quite recently, to the Village of Bull Valley, which as a solid track record of allowing its roads to deteriorate.
You can see the difference between township maintenance and Bull Valley village maintenance on the photo of Ridge Road here. It's just before Ridge runs into Bull Valley Road. In the foreground is the township road; down the hill is the Bull Valley-maintained road.
Then there is Crystal Springs Road.
Nunda Township Highway Commissioner Don Kopsell just repaved it for the second time in 11 years. (Remember the Bull Valley Professional Engineer recommended repaving Bull Valley's roads every 15 years and nothing has been done for the last 8 years.)
It's part of Crystal Springs Road maintained by the township.
Below is a part near Colonel Holcomb Estates, which is not in the village. This part of Crystal Springs Road is maintained by the village because the farm across the street was annexed.
The village establishment has responded with a "Save Open Space" campaign. Emotion is always easier to see than logic. They have yard signs and have stolen some of the 4X4 foot signs I posted, including the ones at the top of this page. Their "Open Space" yard signs turned up right across the road from three of the stolen signs.
There many other examples.
Posted first on McHenry County Blog.