Ottawa will be able to use property near canal for public, private business development

Bill signed into law by governor

The city of Ottawa will now be able to use property near the Illinois and Michigan Canal for public and private business developments.

State Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa) sponsored House Bill 3165 and Gov. JB Pritzker signed it into law, which removes all restrictions imposed by the Illinois and Michigan Canal Development Act and those imposed in the deed for canal lands conveyed to the city. The restrictions were once removed by legislation, however, the section that removed the restrictions was later repealed so it is unclear whether the restrictions were actually removed from the deed.

Ottawa Mayor Dan Aussem has said the city has been trying to get the item taken care of for a long time, something Aussem said city officials thought they took care of in the 1980s.

“The property that was needed to advance some developments in Ottawa had some issues as far as deed restrictions that were never made clear,” Yednock said in a press release. “Expansion for public and private sector jobs and different amenities that can be offered for the residents of Ottawa shouldn’t be halted because of an easily fixable misunderstanding.”

State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) also was instrumental in getting this legislation passed through the General Assembly, Aussem has said.

“The Illinois and Michigan Canal was such an integral part of Illinois history,” Yednock said. “During the transfer of ownership from the federal level to eventually the city of Ottawa restriction limited what the property could be used for. Now Ottawa will be able to use the property as the city sees fit and that was the goal I wanted accomplished with this legislation.”

The canal was rewatered earlier this spring, but later emptied after an issue with algae and plants growing too heavy in it. City officials plan to meet soon to discuss the canal’s future.

Additonally, the deed restrictions on a downtown waterfront property in the area of Woodward Memorial and the nearby parking lot have been released by state lawmakers, but await the governor’s signature.

A few years ago when Ottawa’s waterfront project was being proposed, it was identified this portion of land CL Real Estate had been eyeing had deed restrictions. The restriction notes the land can’t be sold and must be available for public use, but the city asked the state to release all these restrictions, so the land may now be sold and owned for private use.

Aussem said the city acquired the land in the 1970s and believed the restrictions had been removed in the 1980s, but that wasn’t the case.

“These agreements are older, written back in the 1950s,” Aussem said. “We’ve been told it’ll be easier to get a bill passed straight out rather than go around trying to figure out what happens with the language.”

Derek Barichello

Derek Barichello

Derek is a Streator High and University of Illinois graduate. He worked at the Albany-Herald in Albany, Ga., and for Sauk Valley Media in Sterling, before returning to his hometown paper. He's now news editor for both the NewsTribune and The Times.