Incomplete infrastructure barrier to completing McHenry County subdivisions

A notice is being filed with properties in five McHenry County subdivisions that building permits may not be issued in subdivisions with unfinished stormwater systems or roads.

Most people don’t move to a subdivision to live alone, but that’s what life has been like for Bob and Linda Murray, who have lived in the Woods of Stone Ridge subdivision outside Crystal Lake for the past 10 years after the neighborhood’s developer left it unfinished.

“We sort of enjoyed the 20 acres to ourselves for 10 years,” Linda Murray said. “This has been nice.”

The Murrays bought their plot of land around the beginning of the Great Recession. With the housing bubble bursting and the economy crashing, many home developers went bankrupt.

“All the lots were for sale at that time,” Bob Murray said.

The Murrarys finished building their home in 2010, but the rest of the subdivision has remained empty.

Some are now owned by Stone Ridge Development LLC, who Linda Murray, who also serves president of the homeowners association, said were bought from the bank after the developers went bankrupt. Others are owned by individuals who have yet to build homes.

“[The developers] did all the infrastructure: all the roads, electrical, gas and everything that had to be done and permitted through the county,” Bob Murrary said.

The infrastructure of their subdivision, as well as Kilmarnock Glen outside Woodstock, Riley Creek and Whiskey Creek near Marengo and Brookstone by Cary, is incomplete, however.

The Murrays were not aware their subdivision had incomplete infrastructure, specifically an incomplete stormwater management system, they said. Their home was not on the county’s list of lots in the subdivision with incomplete infrastructure, although the other 11 lots in the subdivision are.

“[We thought] the subdivision was developed and completed and approved by the county before we built,” Linda Murray said.

Last Tuesday, the McHenry County Board passed a resolution creating notices for the unfinished lots in these neighborhoods to notify owners and future buyers that more construction may be required before building permits can be issued.

“This action does not prohibit construction, rather it ensures that property owners are made aware that construction within these subdivisions may require work beyond the residence,” county building officer Adam Wallen said.

The situation in each subdivision is different. Some have unfinished roads, while others lack a functioning or complete stormwater system. The reason each subdivision was left incomplete also varies, but the Great Recession was one of those reasons.

“Real estate speculation was rampant [at the time],” County Administrator Pete Austin said. “People got too far out, they borrowed money with the expectation they could pay back the money.”

Builders around the country had to leave their projects abandoned, including some McHenry County neighborhoods. Some have one or two homes like the Woods of Stone Ridge, while others have no houses at all.

“The work varies by subdivision and by lot,” Wallen said. “Property owners or potential property owners in these subdivisions can contact the Department of Planning and Development to review the additional infrastructure work that may be required to support a proposed residence.”

Just because a lot is in one of these incomplete subdivisions does not mean construction cannot happen on it, Austin said, but there will likely be additional hurdles before proceeding with construction if that is the owner’s intention.

According to the County Board resolution, the county has no way of ensuring the infrastructure in these subdivisions is completed. According to the resolution, issuing these notices is in the “best interest of county residents and taxpayers to prohibit new development in subdivisions without appropriate infrastructure.”

In the Woods of Stone Ridge subdivision, the Murrays said one of their neighbors is almost ready to build on their lot.

“It’s a beautiful area to live in. It’s exciting to have other people building here,” Linda Murray said.