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Crime & Courts

Officials point to violations at Yorkville-area campground

A sign pointing to the Hide-A-Way Lakes campground off Van Emmon Road near Yorkville. A sign underneath states "You and your vehicle will be searched for illegal contraband upon entry. You may turn back now."
A sign pointing to the Hide-A-Way Lakes campground off Van Emmon Road near Yorkville. A sign underneath states "You and your vehicle will be searched for illegal contraband upon entry. You may turn back now."

Kendall County officials want a Yorkville-area campground to clean up its act or it could have its special use zoning permit pulled.

County Board member Matthew Prochaska, the chairman of the board’s Law, Justice, and Legislation Committee, sent a letter June 15 to fellow County Board member Bob “H.D.” Davidson, the chairman of the board’s Planning, Building, and Zoning Committee, requesting that the PBZ committee consider revoking the special use permit for the Hide-A-Way Lakes Campground “based on public safety concerns.”

A letter sent June 15 to campground owner Tom Tanner from Kendall County code official Brian Holdiman states that 43 “violations of the Kendall ordinance declaring the storage of junk and of waste matter on private property to be a nuisance were found” during an April 25 inspection of the property.

The letter, which was obtained by the Record via a Freedom of Information Act request, was accompanied by photos of boats, vehicles, RVs and trailers at the campground allegedly in violation of county rules.

The campground, at 8045 Van Emmon Road east of the Yorkville city limits in unincorporated Oswego Township, has been operating since at least the early 1970s, according to state records.

The county’s Law, Justice, and Legislation Committee discussed the campground at its June 12 meeting, and the PBZ committee also discussed the campground at its meeting that same day.

During the Law, Justice and Legislation Committee meeting, a list of complaints regarding the campground was presented by the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office. The list addressed complaints related to the campground compared to other campgrounds in the county.

According to the information compiled by County Sheriff’s deputy Frank Pavlik, from Dec. 15, 2015, until Aug. 4, 2016, there were 145 calls for service taken by the sheriff’s office for an incident at the campground. Of those calls, 53 reports were taken and 39 of those reports have “indicated that an individual or individuals have permanent residence at the campground.”

The calls have included several residential burglaries and other burglaries, numerous domestic violence issues and domestic batteries, several possession of controlled substance complaints, several ambulance assists and overdoses, disorderly conduct, a criminal sexual assault, contact with registered sex offenders who reside and/or work at the campground, sex offender registration issues, and “lower level offenses” such as criminal damage to property and neighborhood trouble, according to Pavlik.

Pavlik’s memo states that there are “unsafe conditions” such as an uncovered manhole. The memo also states that Tanner has “turned off power to campers for being late on their monthly rent.” Pavlik’s memo states that Tanner has “openly stated that he does not want sheriff’s deputies within the campground as he feels it’s bad for business.”

“Residents have stated to deputies that Thomas Tanner has told them not to contact the Sheriff’s Office for issues, and they are in fear of losing their residence if they do contact the police,” Pavlik states in his memo.

Pavlik’s memo states that concerts have been hosted at the campground in recent years, and that those may have been special use permit violations.

In July 2016, a Jell-O wrestling event was held at the campground and attracted about 1,700 people, according to Pavlik.

Pavlik compared the 145 calls for service from the Hide-A-Way Lakes campground to 20 calls for service from the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park campground in Millbrook and 11 calls for service from the Polish National Alliance (PNA Youth Camp) in the same time frame.

During the June 12 PBZ committee meeting, Committee Chairman Bob “H.D.” Davidson said he and Yorkville attorney Daniel Kramer, who represents Tanner, had been “discussing this.”

Committee member Judy Gilmour read off the list of complaints on Pavlik’s memo, and said there was a request that the special use permit be revoked.

“They know there are people residing there permanently, and it’s supposed to be a campground; that’s a violation,” Gilmour said. “There have been numerous violations over the years.”

At the meeting, Kramer said he and a county PBZ staffer in May went over “a couple of issues” including the issue of people living at the campground as a permanent residence.

“I thought we put that to bed pretty well,” Kramer told the committee.

Kramer said he would like addresses of frequent violators so they could be evicted from the property.

“They are limited to how long they can be there, (Tanner) can terminate the lease,” he said.

Kramer said Tanner was not aware of the sex offender living at the campground until he was notified about it by the police.

“The one registered sex offender he didn’t know anything about,” Kramer said. “The minute the police notified him of it, they terminated the lease and got him right out.”

Kramer said he would be happy to come back to the PBZ committee in July and discuss the issues at the campground.

Kramer said neither he or Tanner were aware of Pavlik’s memo until he saw it at the PBZ committee meeting, and was not aware that the legislative committee or the PBZ committee were discussing the campground. Kramer was at the PBZ committee meeting representing another client of his on a separate zoning issue.

At the PBZ committee meeting, Lauren Belville, an associate sanitarian with the Kendall County Health Department’s Environmental Health division, said she had sent a letter regarding violations to Tanner in May and that he was still in violation after more than a month.

“We are in the second 30-day period of a violation letter,” she said. “I want to say it’s six to eight violations cited on this letter. I did a follow-up visit last week to meet with Mr. Tanner on site. Maybe half was attempted to be corrected but I could add another four violations to the second letter I’m going to be sending. Just want to speak to the fact that the septic and food nuisance and just overall safety is a concern of ours. Every time we’re there, there is a violation it seems in my personal experience. Moving forward is their compliant energy proactive? I don’t know.”

A letter sent to Tanner from Belville dated May 3 states that Health Department officials, along with representatives of the county’s Planning, Building, and Zoning Department and the Oswego Fire Protection District, visited the campground April 25 as part of an annual inspection. The letter states that Health Department staff “observed several violations on the property.”

One of the violations was “sewage surfacing to the ground directly over the holding tank located next to the bath house,” the letter states, adding that the septic failure is in violation of state law.

The letter states that Tanner told Health Department officials that he would have the tank in the bath house pumped out “as soon as possible,” and the agency gave him 48 hours to do so. Two days later, the agency re-inspected the property and the tank was pumped out.

Belville’s letter, however, stated that several other violations still were outstanding, including “pumping and dumping sewage from various septic tanks throughout the campground into the septic tank located at the front of the property,” which it stated must only be done by a licensed sewage disposal contractor per state law.

Belville also stated that “several septic holding tank lids and several camp site septic connection ports were observed to not be watertight or observed to be in disrepair” and that lids “throughout the property are without proper risers and without proper access to tanks.”

The letter also states that there were several areas throughout the campground with “significant amounts of refuse accumulating” that included “abandoned tires and buckets and other items (that) were observed to be holding stagnant water,” which was a violation of the county’s Public Health Nuisance Ordinance. The letter states that the materials could harbor “mosquitoes, rodents, or other vermin.”

Belville’s letter also states that Tanner needs to provide “proper backflow prevention devices on all active water connections at campsites.” The letter says state code requires that all plumbing fixtures connected to the water system need to be constructed “so as to safeguard the water system from the possibility of contamination through cross-connections or back-siphonage.”

The campground has seen its share of controversy in the news over the years. In 1993, 25-year-old Denise Moreno was found dead in a trailer at the campground. Charles Parker later was convicted of her murder and sentenced to 50 years in state prison. In 1996, the campground was under investigation by county authorities following a massive teen drinking party that involved students from West Aurora High School and Lake Zurich High School. In October 2000, three men were arrested for cocaine trafficking by Kendall County CPAT officers at the campground.

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