Coombs neighbors oppose truck firm
By Dave Gathman email@example.com September 14, 2012 7:04PM
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:33AM
If 52 angry residents of far-west rural-Elgin subdivisions hadn’t taken the effort to drive all the way down to Geneva for a zoning hearing on Tuesday, the Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals chairman says, the ZBA probably would have approved a zoning change allowing a trucking company to move into a small, vacant industrial building on Coombs Road.
But those residents were so persuasive, Chairman Joe White says, the ZBA ended up voting 5-0 to recommend denying the request.
The proposed move next will be discussed at 9 a.m. Tuesday by the Kane County Board Development Committee, meeting at the County Government Center on Route 31 in Geneva. A final decision then must come from the full county board, probably in October.
The building in question is on the east side of Coombs Road, just north of an auto-repair garage at the corner of Coombs and Highland Avenue. For years, Northfield Block Co. made concrete blocks there. Northfield still owns it, county official said. But the building has been vacant for at least two years.
For Tad Barnas, the owner of South Elgin-based Road Handler Express trucking company, the site looked like an answer to problems. As his business has expanded, he explained to the zoning board, he has had to store trailers and equipment at different sites in and around South Elgin. If he could move into the Northfield building, he could fit all his operations into one place.
The staff of the county development and community services department examined Barnas’ proposal and decided it would be acceptable. But, they noted, the site is zoned B-3 industrial. B-3 allows uses such as a concrete-block factory. But not a trucking company, unless county officials add a “special-use permit” to that zoning.
And when people who live in the nearby upscale Highland Springs, Wildwood Valley and Wildwood West housing developments — plus various big-lot homes along Coombs and Highland — received notices that the special-use request was going before the zoning board, they mobilized to see that that doesn’t happen.
Marianne Nelson of Wildwood Valley said what bothers her the most is that Barnas plans for trucks to come and go 24 hours a day.
Nelson said her friends are also concerned about noise from the trucks if their diesel engines are left running for hours at a time to power refrigerated trailers; about wells becoming polluted if diesel fuel tanks leak into the ground; and about traffic safety issues.
“The corner of Coombs and Highland is very dark,” Nelson said. “That location has homes east, west, north and south of it. It’s no place for a truck terminal.”
Nelson said a woman who lives along Highland Avenue, Susan Stillinger, organized the opposition by distributing emails, going door-to-door with petitions and announcements, and organizing trips Tuesday night for the nearly 20 miles from their neighborhood to Geneva.
“Even our son, Graham, went around our neighborhood, carrying petitions,” Nelson said. “Apparently he’s worried about his inheritance. Having a truck terminal next door would hurt all our property values.”
“When I got that first letter about this from the county, I thought this was a lost cause,” Stillinger told her neighbors by email after the unanimous ZBA “no” vote.
“But it’s great to see democracy at work,” Nelson said. “They certainly saw that this wouldn’t be welcome out here.”
ZBA Chairman White said the board members decided some of the residents’ objections weren’t really valid, such as the worry that truck motors would rumble and smoke all night. But White said the most persuasive argument from those who spoke was that this area, just west and north of an expanding city of Elgin, is very different from what was when county officials let “the block factory” and the repair garage move in some 60 years ago.
“In the 1950s, the surroundings were agricultural,” said White, who is a farmer himself. “But development in that area has changed quite a bit since the ’50s. Now it’s much more residential.”
Barnas could not be reached for comment.