Eminent domain bill passed by state to help McHenry County with Randall Road project

Leaders hope provisions in bill will be ‘absolute last resort’

Construction crews work to move utilities Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, along Randall Road just north of Harnish Drive in Algonquin.

McHenry County is looking to take over a few pieces of property for an improvement project along Randall Road, and could be helped by a new bill passed by the state.

The project is the last piece of the Randall Road expansion, which first saw construction in 2009 and is slated to wrap up next year, McHenry County Division of Transportation spokesperson Darrell Kuntz said.

However, to move forward with the project, the county will need to reach agreements with nine separate property owners who stand to be impacted by the construction.

While McHenry County continues negotiating with those owners – and has already reached an agreement with one – the state passed a bill that went into effect on Wednesday, which, if it became necessary, would give the county control of said properties before any court proceedings began related to eminent domain.

The idea is to save time and keep the project on track without having to wait months for court proceedings to finish, but officials see it as an “absolute last resort” if an agreement can’t be found, McHenry County Board Chair Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said Thursday.

“It’s not something we want to do,” Buehler said. “I think it’s always been in the best interest to come to an agreement.”

“Home owners deserve to be treated fairly and get market value for their properties.”

—  Illinois State Rep. Suzanne Ness on eminent domain

State Rep. Suzanne Ness, D-Crystal Lake, is one of the sponsors of the bill. In both the House and Senate chambers in the Illinois General Assembly, the bill received zero “no” votes, and had three total “present” votes, according to the General Assembly’s website.

Ness on Thursday said the county approached her about the bill, and she agreed to take it on as long as negotiations with the property owners continued, and a new public hearing was held on the project.

“Home owners deserve to be treated fairly and get market value for their properties,” Ness said. “I was uncomfortable with it at first but I asked for those two assurances.”

Lake in the Hills resident Tarah Woit is one of those property owners who could be affected. She said she’s received a few items in the mail about it but is looking to sell her property by the end of the summer anyway. As a result, she hasn’t paid much attention to the developments.

She would welcome the county purchasing her property if it came down to it.

So far, negotiations are proceeding in “good faith,” Kuntz said. Nearly all acquisitions like this result in a successful agreement, with less than 5% ending up in a court proceeding.

The newest – and last – phase of the Randall Road expansion project is expected to cost about $50 million and will run between around Ackman Road to the north and Polaris Drive/Acorn Lane to the south, Kuntz said. The area covers about 1.5 miles of road.

The project is set to begin construction next year and will widen the road, Kuntz said. Among the changes will include new bike lanes and a sidewalk, more safety for pedestrian crossing and bus stops.

The first two phasestaking place in 2009 and 2021 – built out the road around the area, with this final phase linking the first two, Kuntz said.