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Crystal Lake, Ill., annexation deal paves way for Metra stop

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Crystal Lake, Ill., officials have approved a pre-annexation agreement for a 17-acre site, where Metra plans to build a commuter train stop, the Chicago Tribune reports. The station, between the Woodstock and Crystal Lake stations, would cost an estimated $5 million and take four years to open, Metra officials say. It is part of a planned expansion to the Union Pacific Northwest line.

The $1.5-million site would
be at Country Club Road and Prairie Drive in unincorporated McHenry County near
Ridgefield.

City Councilmen Ralph
Dawson and Jeff Thorsen recently voted against the annexation agreement,
arguing Metra could drop its request, which means it wouldn’t have to adhere to
the city’s watershed ordinance.

"We earned only an
illusion of control over this project," Thorsen said.

The property is owned by a
trust that includes County Board Chairman Ken Koehler as a beneficiary. Koehler
said that if Metra had decided to build under the county’s jurisdiction, it wouldn’t
be compelled to appear before the County Board to ask permission. Instead,
Metra chose to develop in Crystal Lake, where it would receive more public
scrutiny, he said. Earlier, Metra board members expressed little reservation
about Koehler’s involvement in the deal and voted 9-1 to approve the purchase.

The proposed Ridgefield
station is a little more than three miles northwest of the station in downtown
Crystal Lake.

Thorsen said he favored
building closer to McHenry Community College. He said the current plans place
it about a mile from campus. The college already owns land that abuts the train
tracks.

"A train stop at the
college is a good idea," said George Lowe, chairman of the MCC board of
trustees. "But we don’t buy land to give to Metra. We paid a lot of money
for engineering so we could build on the watershed."

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