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Sunnyside/Johnsburg Make History In The State of Illinois

By Johnsburg Village President FRED DIEDRICH
and Trustees DAVE DOMINGUEZ and WILLIAM SANDELL

Citizen John Q. Public: History has been in the making the past year in the Village of Johnsburg.

Mary Q. Public: Johnsburg? Never heard of it.

John: Yes, Johnsburg, northeast of the City of McHenry and embracing the shorelines of the Fox River and Pistakee Lake.

Mary: Oh, you must mean Sunnyside. But, Sunnyside doesn't go that far east to Pistakee Lake.

John: Well, it does now (thinking he should have made a wager before getting this far into the conversation).

In 1990 a group of citizens, who lived in unincorporated McHenry County in the area known for over 100 years as "Johnsburg," feared they would be swallowed or surrounded by municipalities which would provide them little or fractured input in their government. The citizens decided it was time to control their destiny. However, should it be incorporation? Or, should it be a merger with a municipality which would not overwhelm it? Neighbor Sunnyside, which was incorporated in 1956, was the likely candidate. After all, kids from Sunnyside and Johnsburg went to school together and Sunnyside and Johnsburg residents shared the same library, fire protection district and township. Most area churches and organizations were composed of Johnsburg and Sunnyside residents. But, most Johnsburg residents did not want to loose their "Johnsburg" identity, which dated back to the 1800s. Sunnyside needed to thoroughly consider the proposal as annexation of Johnsburg would triple the size of Sunnyside.

Community leaders formed the Community Development Investigation Committee. Headed by Harry May and Scott Dixon, the grass roots organization began exploring the annexation with myself and Sunnyside trustees Dave Dominguez and Bill Sandell. Legal counsel for the Village, Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle of Crystal Lake, was asked to explore the options for uniting incorporated Sunnyside and unincorporated Johnsburg. A court controlled annexation was chosen and Sunnyside Village Engineer John Smith began drafting a legal description of Johnsburg. Johnsburg residents passed petitions which had to be signed by 51 percent of the landowners and 51 percent of the electors. Amazingly, sufficient signatures were collected (1,189) in less than two weeks. The petitions were filed in the 19th Judicial Circuit Court and a hearing was scheduled. After fine tuning the boundaries the court certified the petition, allowing the Village to consider annexing the property. With a gentlemen's agreement between municipal and Johnsburg leaders to change the name to Johnsburg after the annexation was complete and rezone the property in Johnsburg to that which it had it in the county, the Sunnyside Board of Trustees unanimously passed an ordinance on November 19, 1991 formally annexing the property. The Village of Sunnyside was no longer 704 acres, but now was almost five times as large 3,334 acres; the population of 1,500 soared to an estimated population of 4,600.

Meanwhile, the Sunnyside Village Board set out to fulfill their informal promises to Johnsburg residents.

The Zoning Board of Appeals, under the chairmanship of Ken Schaeffer, tackled the enormous task of zoning the additional 2,630 acres of property. Unfortunately, some zoning records no longer existed at the McHenry County Government Center. Moreover, the standards used to grant a zoning variation or change a zoning classification in the early 1900s, when much of Johnsburg was developed, was a lot different than in 1991. County building and zoning records were searched. The objective was to grant the same zoning classifications, variations and special uses that had been approved over the years. To meet that objective the Sunnyside Zoning Ordinance also had to be amended. The search also revealed that many variations were granted to allow construction on narrow lots edging the Fox River. Many times it was difficult to match up legal descriptions found in the old records with existing records. Some parcels still remain a mystery that only time will resolve.

May 1992 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 7


After annexation and zoning, a petition requesting the name change, circulated by Sunnyside Board members in Sunnyside, was submitted to the Board of Trustees. As the steps1, were taken to change the name, the Board pursued avenues for increasing revenues to meet the mushrooming costs of running a much larger Village. A special census has been requested so the new Village can claim its fair share of population based revenues such as Motor Fuel Tax and state income tax monies. Also, Illinois Department of Revenue records had to be amended so Johnsburg sales, service and occupation taxes were sent to the Village instead of the county.

Headaches were avoided in the Building and Zoning Department by working out an agreement with McHenry County. The county agreed to continue servicing building permits it had issued before the annexation; once certificates of occupancy are issued the structure will come under the Village umbrella. The county also agreed to continue with code enforcement it had already begun.

Perhaps the hardest hit with the population/land explosion has been the Police Department. Chief Ken Rydberg's budget was literally shot to pieces when he had to expand his police protection services.

Within the year, depending upon the final census figure and residential construction activity, the President and Board of Trustees will be facing a lot of new procedures and requirements ranging from holding public hearings on its proposed appropriation ordinance to establishing a Police Commission and Police Pension Board to FAU participation to having fiscal year accounts audited. Personnel costs are also exploding, not just in the Police Department, but in administrative services. Currently the Village Hall is open eight hours a week and the Building and Zoning Department a couple hours a week; those hours will have to be increased. Trustee Jim Hayman, who chairs the Finance Committee, will be working overtime to prepare the budget for FY1992-93.

As old and new Johnsburg officials, leaders and citizens continue to wrestle with the problems of a larger municipality, the Village's slogan Neighbors Join Hands and symbol the shaking of two hands are expected to prevail, as it has this past historical year.


1. Ill.Rev.Stat.. (1989) Ch. 24. Division 4.

Page 8 / Illinois Municipal Review / May 1992


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