A Chicago suburb is up in arms over a proposed distribution center which residents fear will bring traffic, pollution, and safety concerns.
Elwood, Illinois is a small town of just 2,250 people. It sits 20 minutes south of Joliet, an hour outside of Chicago, and just 5 minutes away from Jackson Township which is itself home to the nation’s largest inland port.
Despite being such a small town, the village hall was packed to bursting on Tuesday night for a planning and zoning commission public hearing on the proposed distribution center. The room holding the hearing was full, spillover rooms carrying a live feed were all full, and according to a report from the Chicago Tribune, some residents were even being put in spare administrative offices. After those filled up, loudspeakers were set up outside and some residents stood in the cold listening to the hearing.
After all of the 600+ attendees were settled, the four-hour public hearing began. During that time NorthPoint, the company who is proposing the Compass Business Park, took 2.5 hours to present their case and address the concerns of the community.
NorthPoint said that the 2,200 acre business park would be used for warehouses, distribution centers, and light manufacturing facilities.
Residents are worried that the new business park will see increased traffic on roads already strained by the inland port in Jackson Township. That increased traffic could also bring new safety concerns.
But NorthPoint claims that part of their construction plan is to include a closed-loop traffic system that would keep heavy truck traffic off of local roads entirely. It would include direct paths from the business park straight to both I-55 and I-80.
Another concern raised is that the new construction would change the aesthetic of what one resident described as their “nice, quiet, dusty place” and bring increased noise, light, and air pollution. Again though, NorthPoint claims to have taken careful consideration in the design adding green spaces and landscaping to match local aesthetics.
NorthPoint also stressed that the new development would trigger a $600 million initial investment from the company resulting in an $87 million boon for Elwood. The company also offered to immediately pay off the village’s $21.5 million in debt if the board approved the project. Additional tax revenues would come in every year from the businesses operating out of the distribution center. According to NorthPoint the new development would provide 1,600 construction jobs and an estimated 15,000 full-time jobs once completed.
But for some people, the economic boon simply isn’t enough of an incentive.
“For me to have the light pollution, sound pollution, air pollution in my backyard with my 4 children there is no amount of revenue to counteract that,” said local resident Delilah Legrett according to WGN9 news.
For others, the business development is simply too large. At around 3 times the size of Chicago’s Midway Airport, it would eat up most of the empty land in Elwood.
But according to NorthStar representatives, the demand is there so the warehouses and distribution centers are coming. They say having them all in one contained well-designed location is preferable to having them scattered around with traffic clogging up local roads.
No decision was made at the hearing, and there are still more requests to be heard from NorthPoint at the next meeting. Representatives from NorthPoint say that if the development is approved, they are considering adding an additional 1,200 acres in neighboring Manhattan in the future.