Thank you for your interest in learning more about the Lennar Riverwoods proposed high-density development off of Doty and Lucas Roads in Woodstock. We have concerns about this proposed community. These include critical environmental issues given the proposal’s density along the Kishwaukee River Watershed as well as the official report indicating that the vast majority of the acreage would have “severe building limitations.” They also include traffic and safety issues.
Dec. 14–Woodstock Plan Commission Meeting: Thank you for all who came to the Plan Commission Meeting and voiced their concerns regarding this proposed subdivision. The Commission was faced with three votes. The Commission members voted against all items proposed that would have allowed the high-density development in its current iteration on this beyond problematic soil. The Recommendations by the Commission will be forwarded to the Woodstock City Council. The Council makes the final decision on a development petition. They may approve, approve with conditions, or simply deny a request.
City Council meetings are run similar to the Plan Commission, but not quite the same. The Council operates under a Consent Agenda. This means that all items are voted on in one motion and vote, unless a specific item is pulled from the Agenda. A council member or a member of the public may request to remove an item from the consent agenda for separate consideration. Typically, contested items such as the Lennar proposal would be pulled and voted on separately. The annexation portion of the request requires a public hearing, so the public must be given the opportunity to provide comments on the development to the Council. For the details regarding Public Comments, Click here. But note that the City Council may restrict Public Comments to no longer than 3 minutes.
We obtained documents from the City regarding the development. Here is a Google Drive Link to some of the information received.
- Click the link the follows for a Letter to the Editor of the Woodstock Independent by Gunnar J. Gitlin.
- Click the link that follows for the Northwest Herald Article, titled:
- Click the link that follows for a Guest Column in the Woodstock Independent by Leslie Kvistad.
- Terri Willcockson
Items not approved by Plan Commission that were proposed included:
- Amendment to the Official Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map to designate the subject property a “Neighborhood Development” instead of “Resource Conservation” and “Resource Conservation Corridor;”
- Zoning Map Amendment from R1B (City of Woodstock) and A1 (McHenry County) to R3 Single-Family Attached Residential District; and
- Special Use Permit for a Preliminary Plat and Planned Unit Development.
• 244 Single Family, 76 Duplex “homesites” = 320 units total.
• Proposed annexation of 2 parcels of land on Lucas Road- currently County, to be annexed into Woodstock.
• Lennar originally proposed this subdivision in 2004-2008, but lower density single-family homes. Then they were not using the two McHenry County parcels off of Lucas Road. If the City grants annexation, they would place the 76 high-density duplex units here.
• Main entrances off Lucas Road. Second entrance off Memorial Drive by the hospital.
• $1.8 Million Impact Fees Request. Lennar requests $1.8 Million reduction in impact fees from the City of Woodstock. These are fees that under Illinois law must be “specifically and uniquely attributable to the new development.” Lennar requests to pay nothing for parks, library, streets, or police. They also request a departure from Code regarding “review and inspection fees.”
Click the link that follows for the Letter to the Editor by Louis Dolman focusing on the requested $1.8 M reduction in impact fees: Your View 12/27/23-Louis Dolman, Woodstock.
• Zoning: Nearly all the land surrounding the property is County property: zoned A1 (agriculture). Part of the property had been rezoned to R1-B (single-family detached with 8,500 sq. ft. minimum lot sizes). This occurred when the developer pursued a lower-density plan prior to the 2008 recession. The southern portion of the property that Lennar proposes for the subdivision is outside the city limits, along Lucas Road. It’s zoned A1. The developer seeks to amend the zoning to R3. R3 is single family attached houses. This zoning also allows for duplexes and townhomes.
- For further information regarding the current zoning, click here: 2.0 Zoning Woodstock 2022 Parcel Location Map.
- For more information regarding what this means on typical lots including variances sought, click here: Proposed High Density Lot Size Typical
The proposed development would adopt the highest density allowed by the City of Woodstock for single-family homes and duplexes. In fact, Lennar would require a variance from those minimum requirements to allow smaller lot sizes, narrow setbacks, and narrower streets. See: Unified Development Ordinance City of Woodstock, p. 10 of 31 (Table 7A.2). This table provides the details for high-density R3 (single-family including duplexes, etc.) zoning for Woodstock. See p. 3, 7A.2 [District Descriptions] and p. 10, 7A.2 [Area and Bulk Requirements]. It shows that the highest density allowed by the City of Woodstock is 7-foot side setbacks with a minimum combined total side setback of 15′ under R3 zoning. The developer requests side-setbacks throughout the proposed development of less than these amounts. To best understand what R3 zoning means, consider the following taken from the City of Woodstock’s zoning ordinance:
“This district provides opportunities for higher-density attached dwellings, such as duplexes, townhomes or rowhouses.”
At the Plan Commission meeting on December 14, 2023, Lennar acknowledged that this zoning change would open the door to further R3 development alongside this 320-unit proposed development–in what’s now farmland. This presents a question for the City of Woodstock: whether Woodstock wants to be like Lake in the Hills and have Route 47 coming into Woodstock become the next Randall Road. This is why we should consider Woodstock’s Comprehensive Plan.
• Woodstock’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan. The link to Woodstock’s Comprehensive Plan of 2008 is broken on the City of Woodstock’s website as the city is in the process of updating its site. But you can find it here: Woodstock Comprehensive Plan 2008. This Plan is being updated with the timetable for the new plan to be potentially approved this Spring. Yet at this time, the developer can only look backward to establish whether it has met the requisite standards. The developer cannot demonstrate compliance with the current needs of Woodstock, since the new plan has yet to be receive formal consideration by the Plan Commission or the City Council.
At the Plan Commission meeting, it was suggested that the lines drawn on the exiting Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map were arbitrarily chosen. Yet two current Plan Commissions whose names are on the Land Use Map both voted against the measures presented for a vote. One Commission member looked to the map itself and pointed out that much of the land had been designated either as a resource conservation corridor or resource conservation area. It was urged that this designation should not be lightly ignored.
The section addressing the Unique Character of Woodstock emphasizes at page 9 that our unique character is “shaped by the variety of agricultural activity around the city, the considerable amount of environmentally sensitive areas in the presence of open spaces and undeveloped lands between Woodstock and the municipalities to the east and the southeast.” The next section of the Plan is titled, “Natural Features and Open Landscape Preservation.” It opens by stating, “The preservation of natural areas and open landscapes also sets Woodstock apart from other municipalities.” The Plan refers to “reduced development density” being due to conservation area as well as privately owned parcels containing wetlands and woodlands.” Finally, the Plan provides Implementation Strategies to meet public infrastructure goals. It states that the City of Woodstock should, “Adopt land use controls to protect the recharge function of the groundwater recharge areas in the City’s planning area.” See Plan, no. 5, p. 38, “Implementation Strategies.”
This proposed development would forever alter the unique character of Woodstock and fail to protect our sensitive aquifers. These were major considerations in establishing the Plan since much of this area is a natural resource area and a natural resource corridor. Click here to see where Lennar would place the Development versus the land use that has been designated by the Land Use Map: Resource Conservation-Side-by-Side Maps.
• Severe Building Limitations for both basements and slabs on nearly 90% of acreage. According to the required Natural Resource Inventory Report, (NRI 23-061-4521) 88.5% of the area has “severe limitations” for basements and slabs. Despite problems identified, the plan is for partial basements on all single-family homes. The Executive Summary at p. 3 stated, “It is recommended that the structures have crawl spaces instead of basements…” This was also consistent with the expert testimony by Dave Brandt, a retired soil scientist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service who worked at the Woodstock office for 26 years.
The executive summary warns of “problems for future property owners” including “cracked foundations, wet basements, lowered structural integrity.” By way of comparison, the official soil and water reports of properties over 5 acres in McHenry County were obtained. Including this proposed development there are 12 properties since 2015. The other developments range in size from 8 acres to 92 acres. Of those, none had nearly as substantial floodplain acreage. No other proposed development had the percentage of hydric soil (saturated, flooded or ponded) in the range of the proposed development. And not one other proposed development that involved rezoning had severe limitations for slabs of more than 28% of the overall acreage compared to 88.5% severe limitations for both basements and slabs.
Click on the link that follows to see Gunnar J. Gitlin’s letter to the City of Woodstock, Plan Commission, addressing the severe building limitations identified by the NRI Report. Gunnar Gitlin Letter to CoW Plan Commission
Lennar still insists on its plans for basements built on all of the single-family homes despite the concerns identified by both the NRI Report and the expert testimony. Lennar further acknowledged that the reason for including basements is market demands. [A potential buyer in this area would expect to be able to buy a house with a basement.] Mr. Brandt testified that nearly all of the acreage on which the development would be built has either a moderately-high or a high potential for shallow-aquifer contamination. He testified that if 246 basements were built on this land, this would provide 246 new permanent pathways to directly pollute our groundwater. And this contamination would surely make its way to area wells if basements were allowed. Therefore, he pleaded with the Developer to avoid any basements on this “beyond problematic” soil.
• Increase in Potential for Flooding in the Area. The NRI Report points out that the site contains 29% of hydric soils–and another 7% of the soil, which is simply unbuildable. The Report indicates that if the development occurs on hydric soils, this raises the concern for “loss of water storage in these areas and the potential for increased flooding in the area.” The Report emphasizes the importance of potential “hydric inclusions” as a soil type. (NRI report p. 40). Therefore, the McHenry County SWCD recommended three additional steps that had not been taken. (See report at the bottom of p. 40 / p. 34 as numbered).
There’s also a soil type that is called poorly drained soil. The last category has seasonal high water at only 1 to 2 feet below the soil surface. The combination of these three soil types consists of 75% of the overall acreage. The expert report by Dave Brandt warned of building homes with basements on land with all three of these soil types. He emphasized that it simply could not be done responsibly.
• Remnant Oak Woodlands. Lennar has insisted upon using a tree survey that dates back 20 years. Lennar plans to destroy most of the high-quality trees. These are part of remnant oak savanna on this property. Because of the additional cost of updating the tree survey, Lennar refuses to provide to the City a current survey, instead relying upon one that’s 2 decades old. Note that the City changed its standards for tree surveys since the original 2004 survey. See: Section 8A.1.3. The current UDO requires tree surveys that identify trees with diameters 4 and 8 inches. The older survey required only 6 and 12 inches. The position taken by the Developer is that a tree would only grow an inch in diameter within that 20-year time frame. That information was wrong. But we can put that aside. The bottomline: a survey from 20 years ago with different standards fails to comply with our current UDO. Yet even that 20-year-old survey showed that there were 1,138 high-quality trees six inches or more in diameter. And over 200 of these trees are more than 200 years old.
As part of the preliminary plat and final engineering plan submittal, a tree survey as defined and provided for in this Ordinance is required. Trees intended to be preserved shall be depicted. A tree preservation plan prepared by a qualified arborist, forester, or similarly qualified professional in the field of natural resources is also required as part of the final engineering plan submittal. Failure to submit these items is a valid reason to delay consideration of a preliminary plat or to withhold approval of final engineering plans or a final plat until such items are available. (Ordinance Number 09-O-64, adopted October 20, 2009).
There are “Content Requirements” for a Special Use Permit. The UDO provides at 4.4.2(G), “If the subject property is vacant and undeveloped, and not part of a platted subdivision, information shall be provided which depicts…trees having a diameter measured at breast height (dbh) of four (4) or more inches.” The UDO contains a definition of “shall” stating, “The words “shall” and “will” are mandatory and not discretionary.”
When certain Plan Commissioner’s urged Lennar to present an updated tree survey, Lennar stated that due to the additional cost that they simply would not do so. In the words of Lennar at the Plan Commission meeting: “I think we’ve made a business decision that the dollars that would have to be spent to meet your requirements for a tree survey… There’s no bang for the buck to do that.”
It is suggested that there’s a reason that Lennar has opted out of completing a survey are the requirements of Woodstock’s tree replacement ordinance. Without a “tree replacement plan” as required by the UDO, we cannot determine how many trees would have to be replaced. Yet a conservate hand-count has determined that the Developer would destroy more than 62% of the high-quality trees. If we apply this percentage, the law would require the Developer to replace 4,849 trees of the smaller size. Yet the Developer seeks to overlook these requirements. We can expert at the City Council meeting for there to be a proposal to waive all of the tree replacement requirements that are contained within our UDO. Yet it is strongly urged that before waiving the requirements of our Ordinance, there should be a baseline of what is required under that ordinance.
And the stronger point is that given the particularly problematic soil conditions based upon the expert testimony and the NRI including the negative impact on our shallow aquifers, it is urged that the City should not waive the requirement of our law to green light this Development.
For a further understanding on the impact of trees in trees in Chicago-land area see the 2020 Chicago Region Tree Census. Key findings included the fact that there are 172 million trees in the region, an increase from 157 million in 2010. The canopy cover increased overall from 21% to 23%. But it decreased in the City of Chicago and in McHenry County. The report points to the benefits in Chicago land that includes the benefits of avoided runoff in the area–which was $95 million in savings. Suburban Cook, DuPage, Kendall, Will, Lake and Kane all had increases in the critical regional forest figures. Outside of Chicago itself, only McHenry County had a decline. [See p. 24 of the 2020 Census.]
• High-Density Lots. Lennar proposes smaller roads (see attachment) & smaller lots sizes (below some of the minimum standards required without a variance).
• Green Space. Lennar has cherry picked numbers for what it posits is its green space. Yet most of the green space would be retention areas.
• Impact of Sensitive Aquifer Area. 41.9 acres of the land is on a Sensitive Acquirer Area (see map on page 2). As pointed out in the expert’s testimony before the Plan Commission, McHenry County is 100% reliant on our shallow aquifers for our groundwater. According to the expert testimony by Dave Brandt, it’s the combination of having such a large area that’s designated as a sensitive aquifer combined with the high potential for shallow aquifer sensitivity that requires that basements would not be built to avoid contamination of area wells. This also poses a risk that area well will go dry and long-term risks to Woodstock’s overall water supply. Woodstock’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan focuses on just this when considering new developments and emphasizes our responsibility to ensure an adequate and clean supply of groundwater. (See p. 12 of the Comprehensive Plan). The Plan explains at p. 22, “Woodstock relies on shallow aquifers which are vulnerable to contamination for its water. Protecting soils and establishing open landscapes is important because of the impact on water recharge areas, as well as its contribution to the visual and physical character of the community. Page 35 of the Plan states, “Contamination is a threat to shallow aquifers, as well as public and private wells, and the protection of the City’s well-head areas is of vital importance. In the past, the management of surface water has been an afterthought in urbanizing areas. As a result, corrective action has been more piecemeal, more difficult to design, and more costly. ” This development would fail to serve the goals of the Plan given the fact that the high-density duplexes would be located on this sensitive aquifer recharge area.
• Building on Kishwaukee River Watershed. Woodstock’s overall plan of 2008 has this specific area properly designated as a Resource Conservation Area and Resource Conservation Corridor. The Plan proposes wetland “mitigation” of the farmed flood plain adjacent to the Kishwaukee River.
Megan Liebetrau – 815.919.8348
Jessica Rizza – 815.543.3351
Gunnar Gitlin – 815.404.3631 or 815.338.9401 (ofc)
Facebook Group for Lucas and Doty Roads: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2386915121474956