Burlington trustee wants referendum on ECC safety center plan
By Jeanie Mayer For The Courier-News December 4, 2012 12:02PM
Updated: January 6, 2013 9:48AM
BURLINGTON — A village trustee says she wants to ask voters in a referendum if they are in favor of the proposed Public Safety and Sustainability Center that Elgin Community College is proposing to build in Burlington.
Trustee Betty Reiser said she wanted the village to hold a referendum before approval for the $20 million center are given by the board for the Center. She said she believed the residents did not know enough about the project.
“This thing is going to affect the (people’s) whole life and they don’t know anything about it,” Reiser said.
Village Attorney Nancy Harbottle said placing the project on the referendum might cause the petitioners to withdraw their application for the project, thus costing the village a development opportunity.
Village President Kathy Loos said the meetings and hearing are open to the public and those interested could attend.
“The signs are out of the property announcing the public hearing. The meetings are written on the marquee,” Loos said.
Reiser said she would bring up the referendum again because her motion was not acted on.
“I am going to keep bringing this up at every meeting. A lot of people don’t know (the center) is not out by Central High School. It is one mile out of town on Plank Road. They don’t know about the firing range,” she said.
ECC announced in May 2011 that it had chosen Burlington for the center. The center would be will be built on 118 acres on the east side of the village, south of Plank Road and north of the railroad tracks.
The center, if approved, will serve as a training facility for police, firefighters and other first-responders. It also will have a component for truck driving training and classroom facilities. The center is proposed to be self-sustaining and produce a limited environmental footprint.
After the board meeting the plan commission convened to weigh in on the preliminary plan for the center.
The commission was joined by Sharon Konny, CPA and vice president of business and finance for ECC and attorneys John Regan and John Early of the law firm Early, Tousey, Regan and Wlodek to answer questions about the project.
Village Engineer John Whitehouse said the purpose of the meeting was to determine if the petitioner provided enough facts at the recent public hearing to support its case for a zoning map amendment to change the property from A-1 agricultural to C-F community facility. The plan commission also was charged with determining if the project warrants zoning exemptions.
Overall, plan commissioners said they were impressed with the plan.
Commissioners did ask about the proposed tactical village in the center and how the buildings would be laid out on the site. Commissioner Jim Becker had concerns over whether the site was rural enough for the project, given that there would be a 500-yard outdoor rifle range and scheduled night time training operations.
“I think overall the facility and operation is positive, but I want to make sure of the impact on the town. This seems like this should be a rural project,” Becker said.
The college’s plan also calls for a 90-meter wind turbine to be constructed on the property as part of its self-sustainability project goals. Commissioners were concerned about the noise of the generator, the size of the wind mill itself and the aesthetics of having it in a small town like Burlington.
Attorney Regan responded by reminding the commission that the college chose Burlington for the site at the request of the village and that the project could not move forward if portions of the planned uses were prohibited by the village.
“The college came to Burlington at the invitation of Burlington. We said we need these uses and do you want to be our neighbor,” Reagan said.
He also stated that the firing range would not be built until phase two, approximately five years from now.
The plan commission took preliminary steps to outline limits on when the firing range might be in use and how often night training of police and firefighters would take place. Its final recommendations will be made to the village board on Dec. 10.