South Beloit approves Hidden Creek Estate's expansion requests


City of South Beloit

Despite significant concerns about noise, privacy, and environment, the City of South Beloit approved all requests from Hidden Creek Estates, including a pre-annexation agreement, zoning amendment, and special use permit for their additional property at 13390 White School Rd. The city council made the final decision at a public hearing and special council meeting on June 20, 2024.

At a public Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on June 12, 2024, the South Beloit Zoning Board addressed various zoning issues related to property developments and concerns regarding them. Community members raised these concerns because they were worried about the potential impact of these developments.

Hidden Creek Estates, a wedding venue with onsite lodging and a wine and whiskey bar in Roscoe, has sparked both support and opposition since its establishment. The original property was pre-annexed by South Beloit in 2021 after the owners withdrew their original request to the Village of Roscoe, which is adjacent to it.

The primary order of business at the June meetings was a pre-annexation agreement requested by the venue's owners for the additional land, which proposed a parking lot that would add sixty-six parking spots, a small solar field, and a sign for the accessory parking lot.

Expansion and Accessibility Improvements at Hidden Creek Estates

Hidden Creek Estates founders and owners Dude and Kerry Frank attended the ZBA meeting. They distributed informative packets that included a blueprint outlining their plans for the zoning request at their new property located at 13390 White School Rd, which is adjacent to their property at 13276 White School Rd in Roscoe. The expansion plan for Hidden Creek Estates aims to improve accessibility, reduce congestion by adding a new parking lot, and enhance energy efficiency through solar energy.

The plans for the new property at 13390 White School Rd

Kerry Frank said, "We recently expanded to be able to move the wedding dances indoors. With this expansion, we really need accessible parking closer to the new indoor space." She explained that the land they purchased allows them to have ADA parking and will also help reduce parking congestion in the current lower gravel parking lot.

Additionally, Frank stated they could take advantage of some of the Illinois solar grants, and they would like to put in a solar field to help reduce their energy bills, which will also push energy back to the grid.

Frank had received approval for a sign at a previous council meeting. However, they encountered issues with the county road on their frontage, which prevented them from putting up the approved sign. They asked for reapproval, as the frontage complies with the county road offsets.

Support for Hidden Creek Development

The Board read letters of support sent in, and people also attended and voiced their approval at the meeting by praising the Franks' pursuits for accessible parking and solar energy installations.

Illinois State Representative John Cabello spoke in high regard of The Frank's plans. He expressed disgust at police reports he'd read regarding acts of retaliation against the business's operations. "My office got several calls from several neighbors that I know personally. I've gotten calls from several lawyers. So, I started diving into what was going on. I read all the police reports and am disgusted by what has happened. Being a policeman for 30 years, it's disgusting. Thoroughly disgusting."

Cabello convened a meeting at his office with the business owners, some neighbors of the business, a village police officer, and a Roscoe trustee to discuss recent changes and improvements made in response to neighbors' concerns. After speaking with the Franks during a visit and tour of the entire property, he said the Franks are committed to addressing the concerns raised by the community. They are willing to plant trees and install more sound barriers, including possibly taller fences. They emphasized that events won't feature loud rock bands. He also stated that an intergovernmental agreement between the City of South Beloit, the Sheriff's Department, and the police is in the works to ensure South Beloit manages all police calls. Neighbors have a contact number for noise complaints, but this should no longer be necessary since events are now indoors. He said these measures reflect the Frank's commitment to being good neighbors and addressing the community's concerns.

The state representative also sent a letter supporting the pending zoning applications filed by Hidden Creek Estates. In the letter, he calls the business a "tremendous addition to northern Winnebago County." He wrote, "The property is a venue unlike any other in our area. The owners' improvements make it a one-of-a-kind event space that allows for commercial use without diminishing the property's 'country charm' or historical stature."

The Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau president, John Groh, a long-time friend of Dude Frank, emphasized Hidden Creek Estates' advantages to the community, including improvements to the region's quality of life and business opportunities. "Hidden Creek is keeping with their priorities and goals to enhance this region as a great place to visit and as well as to live. I know that they have agreed to requests and accommodations. That demonstrates collaboration, cooperation, and a willingness to listen. I understand their continued commitment and desire to be good neighbors, business owners, and people. Their track record with this business and the prior businesses they've owned demonstrates they operate at very high standards with a high commitment to excellence."

An employee of Hidden Creek Estates also attended and expressed support for Dude and Kerry Frank's endeavors. She stated that she can only say nice things about the Franks and their willingness to work with neighbors. However, since she started working there in April, she has witnessed incidents of property damage to the venue, including gasoline being poured all around their pond.

Opposition to Pre-Annexation and Zoning Change

Several residents wrote letters expressing opposition to the proposed pre-annexation and zoning change. Neighbors who remained in disagreement with the Franks' proposals also attended. They cited concerns about spot zoning, noise, privacy, safety, and environmental impact.

Roscoe resident and neighbor to Hidden Creek Estates, Laura Dingillo, voiced concerns about privacy and safety implications for venue guests and her horses. Dingillo's property is abutting the Franks' new property to the north. Dingillo said, "We moved here from the Chicago suburbs 17 years ago so that we could have a private rural place to raise our horses. When we moved in, it was zoned residential. That's what we expected. We have a barn and permanent round pen structure for our horses 30 feet from their new property line, and that's our main concern. We're worried about people wandering over (especially if they've been drinking) to look at or want to pet the horses. I'm asking, quite frankly, imploring you as neighbors to please do the right thing. It is not only a privacy issue but also a safety concern. So we're asking the Zoning Board to please keep guests one hundred feet away from our property and to put in some natural barriers. We would like full-grown evergreen trees on the north side of the property, basically filling in the gaps."

Noise Complaints and Community Concerns

Throughout the meeting, several neighbors raised concerns about noise in person and through letters read by the Board. One neighbor, Todd Moore, said he could hear the noise, music, and people yelling with his TV on multiple times last fall. Because of the noise level, Moore did call the police. Moore says, "I called South Beloit, and they instructed me to call 911. However, since it's not an emergency, I called the non-emergency number since the area is annexed to South Beloit. The county refused to take action, but the noise is disturbing. I can hear it inside my house and even make out the words of the song and what the people are saying when I walk outside. I don't have a problem with what they're doing, but please stop the noise. If you can do that, I'd be happy."

This led to discussions on improving public notification about event setups and managing noise levels. The Franks expressed their willingness to plant trees, use sound amplification, and possibly build larger fences to reduce noise further.

Lighting Concerns

Those opposed also expressed concerns about lighting. Neighbor Nick Rockers would like to see changes to the venue's lighting and address the noise issues. "There's not much evergreen between us, so in the wintertime (when trees are bare), the lighting has been a problem. They have a lot of their property lit up all winter long. It's pretty bright, especially when there's snow on the ground." Rockers commented that he felt that the Franks had yet to make much attempt to cooperate with neighbors other than trying to buy their properties for themselves to further expand, including his own.

The Board recommended adopting a directional lighting approach to only shine down to the parking lot, not to bother the neighborhood around them.

Dude Frank mentioned that the current lighting in the parking lot is low voltage and sits 10-11 feet off the ground with a dome that directs the light downwards. He also stated that they will use the same type of lighting in the new parking area.

Kerry Frank adds, "We've tried to do very low voltage lighting that is low to the ground, and we're very happy to work to make sure it's not a bother to neighbors, but we have had huge threats on our lives, and vandalism on our property so we can't turn off the lights at night because of these incidents."

General Concerns about Development Plans

Community members voiced worries about the need for more specific development plans and the enforcement of commitments. They emphasized the need for legal stipulations to ensure developers follow their promises.

Pre-Annexation Agreement and Parking Lot Regulations

The pre-annexation agreement mandates compliance with various regulations, with all necessary permits already submitted. Officials said that pre-annexation agreements are not spot zoning but involve adding land to territorial limits without arbitrary zoning code modifications.

Noise and Visual Barriers for Neighbors

Due to concerns about noise and visual impacts on neighbors, all parties expressed a willingness to work on solutions. The Franks say they are open to discussions with neighbors to address fence heights and visual barriers, ensuring compliance with zoning ordinances and noise control measures.

Law Enforcement Jurisdiction and Responsibilities

City officials claimed that the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department handled prior noise complaints from neighbors but had not received any valid ones. They emphasized that no one should blame the South Beloit Police Department for jurisdiction issues. They discussed the need for an intergovernmental agreement between the City of South Beloit, the Sheriff's Department, and local police to handle police calls effectively. This agreement would ensure that South Beloit manages all police calls related to the area. 

Differences Between Pre-Annexation and Straight Annexation

Officials explained the differences between pre-annexation and straight annexation. Straight annexation incorporates land into the city immediately. At the same time, pre-annexation applies to land within a mile and a half of the city's limits, keeping responsibilities with the existing political subdivision. 

If Hidden Creek Estates became contiguous to South Beloit, it could be fully annexed in the city. But the irregular municipal borders could make that impossible. In the map below, South Beloit would need to annex enough land to connect the pink section on the left with the red outline in the center.

City of South Beloit's current boundary (pink), Hidden Creek Estates (red), and the Village of Roscoe (blue)

Zoning Amendment for 13390 White School Road

Officials approved the zoning amendment for 13390 White School Road, changing it from residential to urban transitional. This change accommodates both agricultural and non-agricultural uses.

Special Use Permit for 13390 White School Road

Officials approved the special use permit for 13390 White School Road, subject to the listed conditions. This permit includes uses like outdoor seasonal venues, food and drink sales, and continued farming. The property owners say they are willing to address neighbors' concerns about noise and barriers.

Although the ZBA has no final say, the commissioners usually don't contradict them. They did in 2021, however, when the commissioners approved Hidden Creek Estates' pre-annexation request after the ZBA opposed it.

More about Hidden Creek Estates

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South Beloit considers liquor licenses for wedding venue

Winnebago County is reviewing traffic study for wedding venue

Hidden Creek/ Promontory neighbors deal with South Beloit defeat

Hidden Creek Estates wins annexation into South Beloit

South Beloit makes final decision today on pre-annexation of wedding venue

South Beloit Zoning Board votes against pre-annexation of Roscoe Township event venue

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Hidden Creek Estates pursues annexation to South Beloit

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