By Bob Balgemann


The village since the devastating flood of June 2008 has acquired 143 lots along and near Shore Drive, on the banks of the Rock River.

State and federal grants have allowed all of that property to be set aside for public use. In following through on those efforts, village officials hired consultant Fehr Graham to prepare and park and open space plan for all that property, as well as land that is acquired in the future.

Fehr Graham completed the plan on March 16, 2020. But since then getting public input on the proposal had been a challenge, because of COVID-19 precautions. Still, the plan was presented during a Facebook Live event on April 1, 2020, when it could be viewed and commented on, on the village website.

It wasn’t until recently that the planning and village economic development committee (PED) met to consider rendering a recommendation of approval for that plan. Included amenities are trails and pathways connecting four distinct park/open space areas along the river. Within those areas are fishing access points, observation decks, nature trails, trailhead parking areas and passive recreation space.

PED’s proposed action was postponed for one month, however, to its April 5 meeting, to give the public additional time to provide its thoughts on what had been proposed. At the root of the delay continued to be the coronavirus pandemic, now entering its second year of existence. The world-wide health crisis hampered in-person public gatherings of all kinds – such as a planned open house at village – so residents could come and see graphics and other visual aids of the multi-faceted plan.

Letters sent 

While giving background on development of the plan, Planning and Zoning Manager Carrie Houston told PED that in lieu of the sought-after open house, letters had been sent to property owners in the area affected by the proposal, asking them to review it online.

“We have received more input than we anticipated,” she said. “I’ve taken several phone calls from residents of the area, concerned about policing of the area, how improvements could affect their property values and whether these are the best projects to spend money on.”   

Given those concerns, she said it had been suggested that committee action be postponed until those questions and others can be addressed.

Committee Chairperson Terri Bailey agreed with the delay, for at least one month. During that time additional attempts will be made to have an open house so the public could attend “and see what everything is all about,” she said. 

After the 5-0 vote in favor of postponing action until the April 5 meeting, a resident who was at the March 1 committee meeting did raise some concerns. Shawna Sterling was able to speak near the end of the meeting, remotely, during the public comments portion of the agenda.

Some of her points were the same as had been raised during phone calls to Manager Houston. In addition, she asked if any grants had been obtained to help defray costs of the improvements and, if so, how much had been received. If parks are constructed near homes, she continued, would there be any restrictions for visitors? Will they be able to drink, have bonfires, etc.? she asked.

In addition, she asked if committee members had talked to residents who have parks in their areas? How do they feel about the parks, she wondered. Do they feel safe? Are there any problems or issues?

Map amendment

Also March 1, PED without discussion recommended unanimously approving adoption of the revised zoning map, which is part of the village’s zoning code. The map is updated as each zoning change is approved by the village board, and the board must adopt and publish the official zoning map every year.

In 2020, the board only adopted one such amendment. That was for 10.766 acres in the 1100 block of North Second Street, rezoning them from single-family residential to light industrial. The land is on the west side of North Second, north of Glen Forest Drive and south of the former North Shore Quarry.

The zoning change is a step to allowing outdoor storage at a site where it has been non-conforming in the past.

There were no annexations last year, so the boundaries of Machesney Park have not been altered.

PED’s recommendation was expected to be on the village board agenda at its March 15 meeting.

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