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Board votes down plan for debated campground

Russ says his next step is unclear, but fight isn’t over

The Grundy County Board voted Tuesday night against a controversial proposed RV campground in Goose Lake Township, eliciting cheers from audience members who opposed the plan.

The proposal consisted of two separate measures: a map amendment to rezone the property from industrial to agricultural, and a petition allowing the property owner, John Russ Jr., to use the property for a 29-lot campground.

The board voted six in favor and 12 against the map amendment, making the second measure irrelevant and killing the plan for the campground.

Russ said his team’s next step is uncertain, but indicated that the issue is not yet over.

The campground has been a divisive issue since the planning commission recommended the proposal in March.

Residents for and against the proposal turned out in large numbers for a county board meeting in April, which saw the board put it on file, and a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, during which board members rejected the zoning change.

Public comment at those meetings was lengthy and often spirited, with many residents and community leaders raising concerns about safety in the popular boating and hunting area, flooding and potential threats to the property values and the Dresden Road industrial corridor.

Many of the comments at Monday’s meeting echoed those earlier ones.

Kent Bugg, superintendent of Coal City Community Unit School Dist. 1, spoke out against the plan once more, opposing it on economic grounds.

“[The industrial corridor] is a huge source of revenue for our district,” Bugg said.

“It’s not about what’s going to happen next year with the tax bill,” Bugg added. “It’s about what will happen in five years, in 10 years, with the tax bill.”

Board member David Allen Welter agreed with Bugg, and voted against the proposal.

“I think it’s very important to have [the industrial corridor] available and to keep that into the future,” Welter said.

But the plan did get backing from some board members who, in previous meetings, had seemed hesitant to support it.

Board member Richard Joyce, who voted in favor of the map amendment, said he had the “highest respect” for Bugg, but questioned whether the area was actually that conducive to industry.

Eighty-five percent of the site is in a flood plain and 59 percent of it is in a flood way, which some opposed to the plan have used as a criticism of the campground. But Joyce wondered what industry would move into an area where flooding was so bad.

“I don’t know what industry we’re protecting there because there isn’t any,” Joyce said.

Board Chairman Ron Severson also voted in favor of the map amendment, saying that Russ had met all the requirements set out by the board and had allayed his concern that the campsites were too close to neighbors.

“He jumped through all the hoops we asked him to,” Severson said. “I can’t keep moving the bar.”
Ultimately, the board voted against Russ.

Russ said afterward that his team will continue to push for the campground, but did not indicate how.

“We’ve followed the codes to a T,” Russ said. “Our next step isn’t clear, but it will be continued.”

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