Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"No Illiana Expressway" Group Forms--"From Lowell to Wilmington"

On February 25th, 2013, people living in and near the proposed path of the Illiana Expressway B3 met in the Will Town Hall to form a new group which hopes to draw members from Lowell, Indiana to Wilmington, Illinois and beyond.  The new group--No Illiana 4 Us--has a wide range of concerns about the proposed tollway: sprawl, pollution and lowered air quality, land taken off local tax roles, quick take eminent domain, how the tollway will affect North-South travel, what roads will be closed, school bus routes, and more.

Before the meeting started, people milled about and shared concerns: "Have you heard when they're going to start buying?"  "Have they been to your farm?"  When asked if he would "buy a farm down south" if the State took his land for the Illiana, one farmer replied: "if I go down south, they want $3,000 more an acre than what I'll get for my farm, I'll just quit."

Group Outreach Coordinator Anthony Rayson stated the group seeks to "coalesce pockets of resistance" along the B3 corridor into a bigger, more united group.

Virginia Hamann--who understands her 10 acre dairy farm would lose 7 acres and agricultural zoning based on the latest B3 alignment--stated: "Just because it doesn't go through your property doesn't mean  it won't affect your quality of life....country roads will be closed and north-south travel will be affected."  Hamann stated that after speaking with Illinois Department of Transportation representatives she felt, "they have no regard for our zoning."  Hamann says her house was built in 1890 and she likes the character.    Asking whether her house could be saved,  Hamann stated she was told she could "buy it back at auction and have it moved."

The group then went on to discuss ways to include those worried about the State of Illinois' finances into the fight against the Illiana.  One audience member suggested advocating for a "No build option until the state has pensions and finances under control."  Another stated: "IDOT is telling a lot of lies just like they did with the airport, we need to band together."

Bruce Hamann, Will Township Supervisor, suggested the group challenge the claim that the Illiana will bring economic development to the region.  Hamann stated the "I-355 extension was not the economic boom everyone was told it would be.  Now Elwood is suing CenterPoint for it's failure to bring about things it promised, the hotels, the restaurants, the good jobs."  Hamann predicts that if the Illiana is built, a few people will get paid good money for the "prime spots" while everyone else will suffer a huge loss of value on their homes and land.  Hamann fears for farmers and homeowners who may have taken out mortgages based on values from a few years ago.  If the Illiana negatively affects values, farmers and homeowners could potentially owe more than they could sell for, depending on how the land was valued at the time the mortgage was signed.

Two Wilmington alders--Darla Neises and John Persic were at the meeting, saying they "support you" and "the city council voted to back the No Build option." Persic stated he "gets calls all the time" from constituents saying "there's a truck with a red stripe taking pictures of my house."  The Illiana Corridor Planning Team has stated in the past that all consultants and contractors working on the project are supposed to knock on doors to let residents know study team members will be surveying or taking pictures for the purpose of the study.

Neises stated that in her ward, "most of the people don't want it, there's a tone that it will affect their way of life."  Furthermore, Neises said, "We are keeping an eye on Ridgeport--the end point of the Illiana--and keeping an eye on their promise to bring us jobs and revenue."

The next meeting of "No Illiana For Us" is Monday, March 11th at 7 p.m. at the Peotone Township Office Building, 8212 W Kennedy Road, Peotone, IL, 60468.