McHenry board denies mining operation; project not dead

By Gregory Harutunian for Chronicle Media

Opposition to a proposed gravel pit is reflected in lawn signs along Chapel Hill Road, where the operation will be based. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

The McHenry Board denied an annexation agreement that would lead to permits for a mining operation near residential subdivisions by a 5-3 vote, during its Aug. 7 session. Mayor Wayne Jett cast the deciding tally and resulted in three other motions on the proposal to be withdrawn.

McHenry-based Super Aggregates has pursued the project targeting a 110-acre parcel, located east of the intersection at Chapel Hill Road and Route 120. The parcel carries an unincorporated county designation. The city’s action now presents the option of petitioning the city of Lakemoor, or the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals.

“Basically, there was pushback from the residents on a gravel pit being there,” said Cody Sheriff, McHenry’s city planner. “Super Aggregates began proposing this conceptually about five years ago, and it’s progressed to now. Last month, the village board voted no on allowing the gravel pit.”

“No McHenry Pit” lawn signs began to dot the major roadways, subdivision avenues, and in front of stores, after a January public hearing with the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Residents complained the mining operation would pose environmental risks, along with increased noise and heavy-duty vehicle traffic.

Jack Pease, owner of Super Aggregates, addressed concerns at the hearing including landscaped berm construction to shield the work site, and “wash-downs” to decrease airborne soil particles. He also cited revenue estimates that would benefit the city through property taxes, and retail taxes from sales of the materials.

Opponents noted the project is along Chapel Hill Road with the McHenry Middle School, Hilltop Elementary School, and the McHenry Outdoor Theater nearby. It would have a direct impact on the Val Mar Estates, Stilling Woods, and Eastwood Manor subdivisions.

The project moved through the commission hearings to the board level, where the annexation agreement was denied. After discussion with his attorney, Pease withdrew his other petitions since the annexation was the lynchpin for the project.

Sheriff noted that the property is situated in unincorporated McHenry County, necessitating the city’s annexation, as part of the agreement and issuing special use permits.

Mining operations already exist on Route 120, with Lakemoor Materials, as well as Thelen Sand and Gravel in proximity to the parcel. McHenry County is rich in glacial till and gravel, a remnant of the geological era known as the Wisconsin Glacial Stage.

A potential next step for Super Aggregates could be to approach the county’s ZBA. “There is very good likelihood of it passing, at that level,” said Sheriff. “First, there is an existing gravel pit next to it. Second, their reclamation plan for restoring the land conforms to the county guidelines for land use. The property was supposed to be operated for about 15 years.”

County records indicate that no petitions from Land Ventures, Inc. or Super Aggregates have been filed with the ZBA.

“At this point, we have two options … which is to go to the county or the village of Lakemoor,” said Tony Pease, Super Aggregate’s president. “We have too much invested in this project, and we have to move forward.”