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OTTAWA - How landowners develop their property in LaSalle County will be governed by a zoning ordinance.

The LaSalle County Board voted 23-6 on Thursday to approve a zoning ordinance despite a large demonstration before the vote and a standing-room-only crowd of 150 zoning opponents at the meeting.

Proponents have seen zoning as a way to protect the northeastern corner of the county from Chicago-area urban expansion.

"We want to preserve and protect farmland," said Ken Stockley, chairman of the zoning committee. Agriculture is the county's biggest industry "and we need to protect that," he said.

"This is the darkest day in LaSalle County history," said Randy Freeman of Lostant, a strong opponent of zoning.

The county was the last in the northern half of the state to have zoning outside of incorporated communities.

The vote assures legal challenges because an anti-zoning group has vowed to take the issue to court. Opponents say the township hearings leading up to the vote were mishandled.

The only Streator-area County Board member to vote against zoning was Glenn Garretson, a Republican. The other Streator Republican, Jerry Myers, joined four other Republicans to vote for the ordinance.

All the board's Democrats voted in favor of zoning.

The zoning idea was proposed several years ago, and township hearings were held. However, the idea was shelved for a time after voters in an advisory referendum rejected zoning.

When Board Chairman Glen "Joe" Dougherty resurrected the issue a year ago, he decided to only complete the hearings rather than start over. Only Eagle Township in rural Streator remained.

The attorney general's office issued an opinion recently that hearings should begin again. Board attorney Troy Holland said that was only an opinion and not binding on the board.

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