Dole Mansion Farmers Market: Brief history of rift between operators and some Crystal Lake neighbors

Customers peruse the goods at the farmers market outside the Dole Mansion on Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Crystal Lake.  The farmers market is new to the Dole this year, having never had one there before this month.

Residents near the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake said the summer farmers market has grown too big and too disruptive for their otherwise quiet neighborhood.

The matter came before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month as the nonprofit Lakeside Legacy Foundation, which operates the Dole property and its events, seeks an amendment to its special-use permit that would allow it to host community events other than those specifically related to art. Neighbors worry that that would result in even more events at the Dole amid claims it’s already exceeding its allowed use.

A photo of the Dole Mansion taken from the 1883 wedding of Mary Florence Dole to Albert Chandler Stowell.  The ceremony and reception were held at the mansion.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to continue the discussion at a meeting June 19. Commissioners requested that the foundation add more specific language in its requests and provide more information on parking and traffic.

Here is a brief history of the Dole Mansion since it was taken over by the foundation, which now runs it:

  • 2002: The Lakeside Legacy Foundation is founded to save the mansion from being torn down to create a retirement condominium community. The nonprofit’s mission is to preserve and protect the mansion for community use.
  • 2005: The first special-use permit is granted to the Dole to “allow an institutional use for an art center for the property,” according to city documents.
  • March 25, 2021: The Dole notifies neighbors of its request to start a farmers market to maintain revenue during the pandemic as the Lakeside Festival was canceled. The first market is held June 6.
  • April 5, 2022: The Crystal Lake City Council approves a special-use permit amendment request to allow the Dole to allow “community-focused events” including Dole Porch Music, a farmers market, Music Under the Trees and the Listening Room outside music.
  • Oct. 10, 2023: Neighboring residents send a letter to the Dole regarding concerns of the growing farmers market event. Concerns included traffic congestion, parking overflow, safety, and the environmental effect of dust and noise.
  • Nov. 17, 2023: The Dole meets with residents to address concerns and agrees to scale back the 2024 farmers market. Changes include reducing vendors, decreasing the footprint and adding more attendants to assist with parking.
  • Nov. 18, 2023: Residents send a list of signatures of neighboring residents with concerns to city staff.
  • Dec. 29, 2023: City staff sends a letter to the Dole reminding operators of the limits of their special-use permit. Staff met with the Dole to address parking and traffic concerns and agreed to perform a traffic study. “Event parking is not permitted on the streets, per the 2022 special-use permit amendment,” Crystal Lake Director of Community Development Kathryn Cowlin wrote in the letter.
  • May 7, 2024: Residents send a letter to the city asking the city to file a formal complaint against the Dole for violating its special-use permit limitations. The letter also asks the city to postpone the May 15 planning and zoning hearing.
  • May 15, 2024: The Dole proposes a request to the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission to allow the continuance of future community-focused events such as the farmers market. The special-use permit amendment asks to create a new land-use category as the “institutional uses” is no longer a land-use category, Cowlin said. The request also seeks approval for the Dole to rent out studio spaces to small businesses as another way to bring in revenue for the nonprofit.
  • June 2, 2024: The first farmers market of the 2024 season will be held after the initial May 26 date was canceled due to thunderstorms.
  • June 19, 2024: The Dole is due to return to the Planning and Zoning Commission with further changes to its requested amendment language and analysis of traffic from the most recently held markets.
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