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Local News

Two new McHenry businesses receive thumbs up

McHENRY – Two new businesses received the go ahead after split votes from the McHenry City Council this week.

Variances were granted, both in 4-2 votes, to allow Skin Rites Custom Tattoos to open as a tattoo parlor and body piercing establishment at 3102 W. Route 120 and GlidePath Power to build a battery-storage facility at 302 Front St.

The city's zoning code doesn't include these types of businesses under its list of permitted uses and so the businesses needed variances.

Skin Rites had originally applied for a temporary use permit to allow it to open ahead of a formal variance, but that application was rejected in April.

Several council members opposed granting temporary variances as a matter of course, arguing it undermined the planning and zoning process.

A permanent variance for the business was recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission in a 6-1 vote, a position that was seconded by the McHenry City Council this week.

Aldermen Andy Glab and Jeff Schaefer voted against the variance. They have consistently voted against tattoo parlors moving into town.

A second variance was also approved in a 4-2 vote Monday evening, though this time Glab was joined by Alderman Geoffrey Blake in voting no.

The variance was for a 4-acre property located on Route 31 just south of West High Street. It would allow Chicago-based GlidePath Power to build a dry cell battery storage facility on the formerly residential site. It is currently zoned for offices.

The facility would hook into the electric grid, according to council documents. It has received preliminary acceptance into ComEd's Smart Grid Test Bed, a program designed to try out pilot ventures like rooftop solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations.

The idea is that battery stations like the one approved could help stabilize and strengthen the grid, the company's vice president, Chris McKissack, told the Planning and Zoning Commission, according to unapproved meeting minutes.

The facility raised some questions from nearby residents, in particular about fire hazards and whether it would be visible from the bordering neighborhoods.

GlidePath Power received a letter from the McHenry Township Fire Protection District noting that the department's dispatch center will be monitoring the facility's fire alarm and extinguishing system and that the area will be accessible to emergency personnel.

The approved variance is also contingent upon the installation of additional fencing and vegetation.

Blake, though, worried that the project was still too close to nearby residences.

"I had some issues with the placement of the building and the fact that it wouldn't raise any [local sales] taxes," Blake said.

The facility would be about 220 feet from its northern neighbors' property line and 225 feet to the western property line, according to Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin.

Glab raised concerns about the facility's cooling system, which he compared to the one District 156 installed about a decade ago when the additions were constructed at McHenry West High School.

While the noise generated by the school's chiller system did not violate the city's noise regulations, the district decided to "be a good neighbor" and constructed an enclosure around the chillers, Superintendent Mike Roberts said.

This cooling system would not be comparable to the high school's, City Administrator Derik Morefield said.

The noise would be on par with a standard office chiller unit, McKissack told the Planning and Zoning Commission, adding that the noise generated would comply with city ordinances.

The facility would take about three to four months to construct and could be operational in January or February, McKissack said.

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