News - McHenry County

Longmeadow Parkway project opponents say they can’t afford attorney

A worker takes a break April 23 from construction on the Longmeadow Parkway in Algonquin between Randall Road and Karen Drive.

A lawsuit that aimed to prevent the construction of a toll road and bridge crossing the Fox River has been dismissed in federal court, after residents said they ran out of time and money.

A group of residents known as Save Brunner Family Forest Preserve or Stop Longmeadow Tollbridge filed the lawsuit in May 2015, claiming construction would disturb the habitat of an endangered species.

The Longmeadow Parkway project was stopped twice during construction – once because of a restraining order meant to protect the rusty patched bumblebee, and a second time because of the state’s budget impasse.

The rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list March 21. The bee is only found in a handful of locations in the country, including Kane County.

The original lawsuit was dismissed in July 2017, but project opponent Geoffrey Petzel later filed an updated version.

In August, federal Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman dismissed four of the five allegations laid out in the protesters’ most recent civil complaint against the project. The lone remaining allegation took issue with a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which agreed with the Federal Highway Administration’s conclusion that the project was “not likely to adversely affect” the rusty patched bumblebee.

The group of residents called the Fish and Wildlife Service’s letter “arbitrary” and “capricious.”

Stop Longmeadow Tollbridge members took to social media on Sept. 21 to announce the group could no longer pursue its lawsuit.

“It’s with great sadness that we announce our lawsuit against the Longmeadow boondoggle was dismissed today in federal court. It’s a case of running out of money and running out of time,” the Facebook post read. “Our attorney, who has been working without pay for months, decided he could no longer put the time and expense into our case.”

All that’s left for the angered residents to do now is “document the damage that Kane County is doing to our beautiful community,” the group wrote.

“I just think it’s also unfortunate for taxpayers and the environment that private citizens ... don’t have the financial resources that the county has,” Algonquin trustee and Kane County resident Laura Brehmer said.

In June 1998, Congress adopted the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century that included $9,375,000 in funding to construct bridge crossings over the Fox River in Kane County.

The $115 million project includes a four-lane, 5.6-mile east-west corridor connecting Randall Road with Route 62, although it starts west of Randall Road at the intersection of Huntley and Boyer roads.

The project will go through AlgonquinCarpentersville, Barrington Hills and unincorporated parts of Kane County.

Dundee resident JoAnn Fritz called the project “reprehensible,” noting that it would run “within a stone’s-throw distance” of “quiet, peaceful neighborhoods.”

“We have done everything that we possibly could do,” Fritz said. “The ideal situation would be a retired lawyer or a retired judge who is personally passionate about making the [Kane] County Board accountable for their actions.”

Work on the parkway started April 17 and has made significant headway, Kane County’s Assistant Director of Transportation Steve Coffinbargar said.

“Seventy percent of the corridor from Huntley Road east to IL 62 is either built or under construction,” Coffinbargar said.

Kane County is attempting to use eminent domain to acquire four additional parcels of land, but Coffinbargar estimated the entire project could be complete by 2021.

Bids for the bridge construction are expected to open Tuesday.

“Pretty much, the bids are going out on the bridge and the final portions of Longmeadow – there’s one portion that’s still in dispute over the land acquisition, but that’s just normal eminent domain discussions over on the east side of the river by the gravel pit [in Carpentersville] – but the rest of it is all going to be going under contract in a couple of months,” Algonquin Village President John Schmitt said.

Katie Smith

Katie Smith

Katie reported on the crime and courts beat for the Northwest Herald from 2017 through 2021. She began her career with Shaw Media in 2015 at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, where she reported on the courts, city council, the local school board, and business.