Gated Community Campground Faces Zoning/Use Questions

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March 9, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

 Some Marshall County, Ill., officials refused to back away Thursday from a dispute with a lakeside subdivision over   possible zoning issues concerning a 101-site campground within the gated Lake Wildwood community.

Twenty-year board member Patrick Sloan, chairman of the county zoning committee, told members of that panel he believed it was time to "close this chapter," the Peoria Journal Star reported.

The episode began last fall with questions about whether the privately operated campground outside Varna, 20 miles north of Peoria, might have expanded in ways that violated the county zoning ordinance.

Lake Wildwood Homeowners' Association officials had provided detailed information indicating no such expansion had occurred during the few years the county has had zoning. State's Attorney Paul Bauer had warned committee members they seemed to be getting drawn into what was basically an internal dispute within the subdivision.

Bauer had emphasized in discussions with Sloan that the six-member committee has no enforcement authority anyway, according to documents obtained by the Journal Star through a Freedom of Information Act request. So Sloan had drafted and offered to other committee members a proposed letter saying the campground was "in basic conformance with our zoning ordinance," Sloan said during the meeting.

But board and committee members Brad Lindstrom and Travis McGlasson sharply disagreed. McGlasson insisted there were "unresolved legal issues" that were never specified, and Lindstrom said, "I can't agree with you to send this letter out, because I don't agree with it."

Lindstrom, who owns property in Lake Wildwood, has vigorously pushed for enforcement actions against the subdivision.

Joe Rutgens, chairman of Wildwood's board of directors, repeated statements he and others have made about the campground.

He emphasized that Wildwood officials accept county zoning jurisdiction over the unincorporated subdivision, but haven't gotten answers about why they've been threatened with fines for unspecified violations.

The threats of fines up to $500 a week have been made in letters from county engineer and zoning administrator Ed Andrews, who lives at Lake Wildwood. His wife, Marcie Andrews, has been one of the most vocal supporters of his enforcement action.

Rutgens told the committee he and others involved in the campground operation are stumped as to what they're supposed to do.

"We don't want to fight with the county. We pay a lot of taxes to the county," Rutgens said. "We want to do what's right."

Sloan said he would ask Bauer to send the letter he had proposed. Bauer said later he had not been contacted by anyone from the committee that day.

"I haven't been provided with evidence that would justify filing a legal complaint against Lake Wildwood or any of its members," Bauer said. "I haven't seen a sufficient investigation by the zoning administrator to lead to that."

Lake Wildwood boasts two lakes. The largest, Lake Wildwood, is 220 acres offering boating, fishing and swimming. Lake Tanglewood is 18 acres and is strictly a fishing lake located near the private campground.

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