Board Approves Landowner’s Ag Area Protections

Larry and Joyce want to preserve their farm from industrial development. They hope to place their farm in a coversancy to stop develpoment for 10 years. John Patsch
Larry and Joyce want to preserve their farm from industrial development. They hope to place their farm in a coversancy to stop develpoment for 10 years. John Patsch

By Nick Reiher
Larry Readman finally has it.
After more than a year of waiting, Readman has a few more ways to hold off the state and the City of Wilmington from turning over part of his farmland near Interstate 55 and Lorenzo Road, thanks to Will County and the Will County Farm Bureau.
The Will County Board on November 17 approved an Agricultural Area designation for nearly 132 acres of his property.
The designation does not prevent eminent domain, it just provides another step for developers to go through. And the full County Board has the final say, as it did in this case.
The state law also recommends developers attempt to work out a solution with landowners in the Agricultural Areas before seeking eminent domain.
The Illinois Department of Transportation altered the route for its now-dormant Illiana Tollway plan after learning part of the original route was in the Agricultural Area approved by the County Board in the late-1980s.
Readman told Farmers Weekly Review last year he just wants to ease the threat of losing his land to development.
“I’m just trying to get another tool to fight with,” he said at the time. “In this day and age in Will County, if you’re a farmer in the path of an airport, an intermodal, NorthPoint, whatever, you’re in for a battle. And there’s no one on your side.”
After 15 years of being bugged by the City of Wilmington and the state over access – maybe forcibly — to part of his land – bordered on the west by I-55 and the east by the Kankakee River Readman reached out in early 2021 to the Will County Farm Bureau for help.
He asked if a Centennial Farm designation might do it. The land has been in his family since his great-aunt Harriet Burton Gould inherited it from her late husband in 1905. His father took over a portion in 1939, and he and his brother now own it and farm most of it.
Readman said Farm Bureau Manager Mark Schneidewind helped him with the Centennial Farm designation. But he said Schneidewind also mentioned a little-used provision in the county called an Agricultural Area.
Under Illinois law, an agricultural landowner can petition the county to put their property – at least 100 acres of contiguous, tillable land – in an Agricultural Area, meaning that land can be used only for farming.
The initial term is 10 years, and each subsequent rollover would be eight years, if there are no challenges. The designation goes with the land; not the owner or owners.
One or more landowners in a particular area can petition for the designation, but no land can put placed in the Agricultural Area without the permission of the landowner or landowners.
Readman got in touch with Colin Duesing, Long Range Land Use Planner for the Will County Land Use Department. Duesing researched the state law and brought the issue to the Will County Board’s Executive Committee, composed of board leadership and committee chairs.
After some initial hesitation, the board allowed the process to continue, which included establishing a committee that would make a recommendation to the board.
According to state law, the Agricultural Area Committee must consist of one county board member and four active farmers, with no more than two farmers being of the same political party.
On the committee are County Board Member Tyler Marcum, and members Stephen Quigley, Larry Readman, Ricardo Sanchez and Morgan Snedden. Readman did not vote on the recommendation for his property, Marcum said, and there was no opposition from the rest of the committee.
Another County Board member will need to be appointed to the committee since Marcum did not run for reelection this month.
In its recommendation, Land Use staff cited the following as reasons for approval:
• Farmland in Will County will be respected as a viable and desirable land use and as an important component of the local economy.
• The viability of large-scale agriculture in Will County will be extended as long as is feasible through sound land use planning
• The County will identify and implement techniques to support agricultural uses … that minimize conflicts between farmers and new residents.
• Agricultural uses are recognized as economically desirable businesses, not “vacant” land.
• Agricultural uses are encouraged to remain, and agricultural preservation is an important goal.
• The desired character for this area is a continuation of the historic rural and agricultural patterns, including farms, farm-service businesses, and pasture and for horses.
• The Agricultural Use Concept in the Land Use Element describes agriculture as the dominant land use in the Rural Form Area.
• The continuation of agricultural uses is an important goal of the Land Resource Management Plan
Duesing said if there are other agricultural property owners interested in applying for the designation, they should visit https://www.willcountyillinois.com/County-Offices/Economic-Development/Will-County-Land-Use-Department/Community-Development-Division/Planning/Agricultural-Area-Conservation-and-Protection.

Cutlines for pictures with jump to 12:

This map shows the location of the portion of the Readman’s land included in the new Agricultural designation.

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