Saturday, April 23, 2016

BCJ: A New Bill-of-Fare

A New Bill-of-
By James Middleton
There was a day when anyone seeking to apply for a
liquor license in Belvidere had to pay the city a $20,000
license application fee. That was once the case. Then,
years later, the Belvidere City Council agreed, after
considerable discussion, to cut that fee in half. The current
liquor license fee in Belvidere totals today $10,000.
There has not necessarily been an explosion of fine
dining establishments and bars in downtown Belvidere, but
since the city fee was reduced, more have arrived. In the
Monday Belvidere City Council meeting, the aldermen had
the opportunity to see a first reading of an application for
a restaurant applying for special use zoning to sell liquor
by the drink, to offer video gaming to their customers and
to open a beer garden at a future date. The application is
likely to return to the City Council for final consideration
in two weeks when the matter comes for a second reading.
It should be noted, to date, liquor license fines, renewals
and license application fees through March 2016 have
amounted to, according to a city report, $100,152, as
compared to $66,000 that was budgeted last year. In 2014
those fees and fines totaled over $96,500 and in 2015 the
fines and fees totaled $122,000. Further, revenue coming
into the city from video gaming totaled $19,618 in 2014.
By 2015, that figure had increased to more than $108,000
and thus far in 1016, video gaming revenue has reached
over $165,000. In the month of March alone, video gaming
revenue totaled over $16,000.
The party that made the application for this dining and
entertainment venue is Niko Kanakaris. He owns similar
establishments in Woodstock, Janesville and Marengo.
The restaurant that he plans to open in Belvidere will be
called Pointers and he has another Pointers in Marengo.
Ed Marx owns the building where Pointers would be
opened. Mr. Marx said, “There are two floors to the place
and a total of 3,500 square feet in both floors.” Mr. Marx
described the restaurant as a place where customers can get
full meals or they could get sandwiches and salads. “This
would not only be a place where you could get a burger,
they will serve great meals, too.”
The official application asks for a special use permit for
“Indoor Commercial Entertainment” that would include
video gaming and “Outdoor Commercial Entertainment”
that would include a beer garden. The address for this site
is 410 South State Street in downtown Belvidere.
The application was considered in a public hearing that
occurred on April 12 before the Belvidere Planning and
Zoning Commission where Gina DelRose the Belvidere
community development planner presented the report of
the city planning department. The application was made
in the name of “Platinum Property Partners, LLC.” She
indicated that the property had previously applied for a
special use permit for outdoor and indoor commercial
entertainment and the application was granted on January
4, 2010. However, the special use granted was never put
into operation.
The result of Ms. DelRose’s report found that the
planning staff recommended approval of the application
with seven conditions. Some of those conditions included
access to the beer garden would be from the building
only, limitations were applied to outdoor lighting and
if renovations of the building are needed, the applicant
would require a Certificate of Appropriateness to meet
the signage and lighting requirements of the Downtown
Overlay District. Further, if music would be provided in
the beer garden, decibel limitations would be applied, the
special use would only apply to the property covered in
the applications and the owner would also be required to
comply with all other codes and ordinances.
Mr. Marx also appeared at the meeting and said that
he had entered into a contract to sell the building site to
Mr. Kanakaris. Both Mr. Marx and Mr. Kanakaris agreed
that Pointers would be different from any other dining
and entertainment venue in Belvidere. After the formal
presentation of information at the hearing there were no
questions and a motion was placed on the floor to approve
the application. The vote was 6—0 to approve the
The next stop for the application is be presented
before the Belvidere City Council and that first reading of
Ordinance #298H occurred in the Monday City Council
meeting. A second reading and potential final consideration
of the request could occur in two weeks.
The site where the entertainment venue would arise
is currently vacant. However, it is expected, if approval
is granted by the City Council, the improvements and
renovations would begin soon for the restaurant and tavern
to open and begin serving customers.

Concerns over Proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad

Chicago Tribune: ELPC’s Learner Raises Concerns over Proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad

By Susan DeMar Lafferty, Chicago Tribune
Even though a proposed new rail line would not run through Will County, it is close enough that some county officials are keeping an eye on developments related to it.
The privately funded Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc., (GLBT) plans to provide an $8 billion, 278-mile rail line to circumvent Chicago’s hub from Janesville, Wisconsin, south to Rockford, into Grundy County, Kankakee County, and into Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties in Indiana.
In recent weeks, the federal Surface Transportation Board has conducted public meetings throughout the region, seeking input and drawing lots of opposition from area farmers. Next, the STB is expected to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a two- to three-year process, and then decide if it will approve or deny the project, or change the route.
The route is currently just south of the Will-Kankakee County Line Road, so the slightest shift to the north, would place it within Will County.
Originally, the rail line was proposed to follow the same right of way as the Illiana toll road through southern Will County, but that project has been shelved. The proposed route is designed to bypass populated areas, allow for future growth, support agricultural and industry around the route, avoid attracting more residences or businesses that would limit expansion or be exposed in case of an incident, keep traffic moving through overpasses/underpasses, and to build the railroad as a quiet zone, according to the Great Lakes Basin website. A map is available at
“The unknown is a concern. This is all subject to change (pending the EIS). It will be interesting to see where it goes. This might not be the final route,” said Bruce Gould, director of Will County’s Division of Transportation.
He is especially concerned about a proposed rail yard which could extend eight miles east and west along the two-lane rural County Line Road, abutting Will County.
“Depending on what happens there, it could have a major impact,” said Gould, who attended one of the first public meetings in Manteno recently and plans to stay on top of the project.
If it becomes a freight yard terminal, he said he would be “considerably concerned” about what would be going in and out of the terminal.
Gould also questioned the need for this new route, noting that when the Canadian National Railroad took over the old EJ&E tracks, it was intended to be an alternate, faster route, circumventing Chicago. The CN lines have added freight trains through Joliet, New Lenox, Mokena, Frankfort, Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest and Chicago Heights, and has been fined numerous times for blocking crossings.
Will County Board member Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, also attended the Manteno meeting because, she said, “People were asking me about it and I didn’t know anything,” she said.
Some voiced concerns that the current route skirts Kankakee State Park, and if there is a legitimate impact to the park, it could be re-routed into Will County, she said.
The Manteno meeting, like many others held along the corridor, was packed with farmers opposed to the project. Opposition groups have been created, including Block GLB Railroad, and Residents Against the Invasion of Land by Eminent Domain – RAILED.
Ogalla said she has heard the same arguments and concerns from Will County farmers when they felt threatened by the South Suburban Airport in Peotone and the Illiana toll road across southern Will County, two major infrastructure projects which are at a standstill due to a lack of state funding.
Financial feasibility is an issue, said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
Great Lakes founder Frank Patton of Crete is “putting the cart before the horse,” by going to the STB before getting railroad companies on board, Learner said.
“This is just like the Peotone airport. You can’t build an airport without airlines, and you can’t build a railroad without interest from rail companies,” he said, adding that several rail companies have already said they were not interested.
“It is not yet clear if there is really money behind this. That’s to be determined,” he said. “We have seen this again and again. Whether it was Peotone airport or the Illiana, they say it is only private dollars but they keep trying to get taxpayer support.”
There are other projects of much higher importance that need to be done first, Learner said.
Will County officials cannot let this project distract them from taking care of roads today, said county board member Bob Howard, D-Beecher, who called the Great Lakes Basin Railroad a “red herring.”
“This is just a group of investors taking the temperature of what is marketable,” he said.
“We have a lot of traffic issues that have to be addressed now. This is what we have to work on now. We have to get back to the basics,” Howard said. “If they apply for federal funds, they will be taking money away from us, and competing with us for federal dollars to improve our roads.”

Above is from: