By Bob Balgemann


The new Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers restaurant under construction at 9901 Orlando Ave. came away from the Oct. 4 planning and economic development committee (PED) meeting, looking at a negative recommendation for one of its three requested variances from the village sign ordinance. 

In August, the planning and zoning commission (P&Z) recommended against that same variance, which was from freestanding, base and height requirements in the zoning code.

While village staff also recommended denial, in its report at the PED meeting it was stated, “We understand that being set back from (Illinois) 173, Freddy’s is a new restaurant in the Rockford area, and they are concerned about visibility. (Signs at) McDonald’s, Arby’s and Target on the north side of 173 are all 35 feet in height; Kohl’s is 30 feet; and the Mobile (gas station) in front of Freddy’s is 20 feet. A 30-foot sign pole (being requested by Freddy’s) is not out of character for the area.” 

At the Oct. 18 village board meeting, Village Administrator James Richter II repeated what was said Oct. 4, that the proposed sign would not be out of character for the area.

Given the absence of trustees James Kidd and Erick Beck from that meeting, Trustee Joe Seipts authored a motion to lay over a vote to the Nov. 1 board meeting, when a full complement of trustees should be present. Trustee Terri Bailey provided the needed second. 

But Village Attorney Tom Green suggested Seipt make a motion to table, since earlier that night he had moved to approve Ordinance 50-21. Seipt agreed, as did Bailey, and the board approved tabling action for two weeks. 

Also Oct. 18, the board approved ordinances 51-21 and 52-21, both from Freddy’s, for variances to different requirements of the sign ordinance, as part of the consent agenda. Those requests had been recommended for approval at the Oct. 4 PED meeting and, in August, by P&Z. 

The requests considered Oct. 18 were part of a batch of five on the consent agenda that night. Four of them were approved, under one motion, with the fifth being withdrawn by Trustee Bailey to allow discussion.  

There actually was no discussion about Ordinance 49-21, which called for approval of a variance allowing a rear-yard setback at 126 Winona Dr. Trustee Bailey asked that the two-week layover requirement between board votes to approve committee recommendations be waived. That would allow first and second readings of the ordinance to occur that night, expediting the approval process at the request of the applicant. 

The various motions to approve the ordinance on first reading, to waive the layover requirement and to approve the ordinance on second reading, all passed, 5-0 with trustees Erick Beck and James Kidd being absent. In addition Oct. 18, Mayor Steve Johnson during his bi-monthly report reminded everyone about the village’s annual Touch-a-Truck event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Village Town Center on North Second Street. 

“So, have the children dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes and explore the various trucks, fire, emergency and police vehicles,” he said. “This is being held in conjunction with the Trunk and Treat event” at that date and time. “Masks are optional, but we do advise wearing one.” 

* Administrator Richter updated construction of the new Chick-fil-A restaurant at 1505 West Lake Road (Route 173), saying he had just been told “they plan to hire 120 people, or try to. They are starting pay at $14 an hour and upwards from there. They are looking for hospital-type employees to take care of their customers.” 

* Village Clerk Robbin Snodgrass reported she recently attended a week of training for municipal clerks, where she learned about such things as parliamentarian procedure, functions of municipal clerks, ethics, FOIA requests, impacts of poverty and new laws that are taking place. They also talked about social equity, diversification and inclusion, she said. 

“My next step is to do a 2,000-word report so I get credit from Eastern Illinois University,” she added. “And then I’ll have my first year completed.” 

* Winnebago County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Anthony Miceli reported that during the month of September deputies responded to 1,791 calls for service, made 430 traffic stops and 15 DUI arrests. Chief Miceli supervises the more than 20 deputies and detectives who provide law enforcement services for residents and businesses in Machesney Park. 

* Village Engineer Chris Dopkins updated the annual pavement maintenance program and Alpine Road improvements. 

The paving project is pretty much done, with a few exceptions, he said. There had been a shortage of Americans with Disabilities Act panels used in sidewalks, but the contractor was able to resolve that problem. The goal is to have everything poured by Halloween trick-of-treating. 

The Alpine Road project also is pretty much done, with a few small items left to be done. Among them are removing foundations from the old traffic signals at the main ingress and egress from Harlem High School. 

“Unfortunately, during the removal on Friday (Oct. 15), a water main broke, the one serving the high school,” he said. “Quick thinking resulted in getting that fixed Friday afternoon. The area that was disturbed is being worked on and should be back to normal by next week.”

Oct. 15 happened to be the end of Homecoming Week at Harlem, with the sophomore and varsity games being played as scheduled that night and the dance being held on Oct. 16.  

No motion 

Under the New Business heading the board considered Ordinance 48-21, allowing a six-foot-tall, front-yard fence at a home on Marquette Road. The maximum height allowed in a front-yard area is four feet. 

During the Oct. 4 PED meeting staff reported that the fence had been erected even though the property owner and those hired to construct it “were told by village staff more than once that the six-foot fence was not permitted in the front yard. Regardless, the property owner chose to continue construction of the nonconforming fence in her front yard.

“After the property owner received a violation notice for the fence, she chose to seek the variance to keep the six-foot fence in her front yard.” 

PED voted 6-0 to recommend denial of the motion to approve the variance. 

On Oct. 18, Mayor Johnson called for a motion to override the recommendation and approve Ordinance 48-21. He received no response to his first, second and third requests for such a motion. “Ordinance 48-21 has failed because there is no motion for approval,” he said. And then he moved on to the next order of New Business.  

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