Crystal Lake rejects MCC plan to expand

Planners cite traffic, flooding concerns

Published: 9/20/2007 12:16 AM

McHenry Community College hit a snag in efforts to expand its campus Wednesday night when a Crystal Lake panel voted down the college's plan.

Citing concerns about traffic and flooding, the Crystal Lake planning and zoning commission voted not to recommend approval to the city council.

The Crystal Lake city council will make the ultimate decision on MCC's plan to build a $26 million Health, Wellness and Athletic Complex.

Planning and zoning commissioners said MCC's 44-acre expansion, which would include a 6,500-seat stadium housing a minor league baseball team, would only worsen existing problems stemming from overdevelopment.

"I love baseball ... but I'm really challenged by the infrastructure," Commissioner James Batastini said before joining in the unanimous decision not to endorse MCC's petition.

Commissioners said the construction of the stadium, which would also host other events in the off-season, would exacerbate traffic along Crystal Lake's highways.

"You're making the evening rush-hour drive a nightmare," said Batastini, who led the charge against the expansion.

The commission's concerns over traffic came despite the college's commitment to spend $1.5 million to improve local roadways and assurances from MCC's consultants that the upgrades would actually improve congestion.

The commission also was not convinced that the expansion would improve the quality and quantity of water flowing to Crystal Lake.

"You have presented a very compelling plan for storm water maintenance," Batastini said. "But I haven't seen how this would be monitored and maintained."

The college's consultants asked the commission to have faith in their work, prompting a skeptical response from commission Chairman Tom Hayden.

"There's a lot of people that took a ride on the Titanic or the shuttle Challenger, and they didn't think anything was going to happen, either," Hayden said.

The one bright spot for MCC was commissioners' insistence that they supported the college's expansion but believed the city needed to do more work to figure out how that expansion would fit into Crystal Lake's long-term growth.

"What we've got before us is putting the cart before the horse," Commissioner Jeff Greenman said.