LOCKPORT – The Lockport City Council has approved an early plan for an almost 2 million-square-foot industrial park that has caused strife between residents and the city for months.
After listening to more angry pleas from numerous residents – some accusing the city of “apathy” – on Wednesday night, council members unanimously approved a concept plan for Prologis to build a five-building industrial park on a 200-acre site located south of 143rd Street, between Archer Avenue and Interstate 355.
The property is bordered by the nonprofit Big Run Wolf Ranch, which houses a number of endangered species, as well as four Lockport subdivisions to the south and the Lockport Heights subdivision in unincorporated Will County to the north.
Ranch owner John Basile and numerous other residents have packed the city’s planning and zoning commission and city council meetings since last fall. Many have passionately voiced concerns about the effect increased truck activity and diesel fumes might have on the safety and health of residents and the ranch’s animals, as well as the possibility of a negative effect on property values.
As of Thursday, a petition against the industrial park had 3,320 supporters.
Opponents raised the same concern again Wednesday. Stanley Quade outlined the numerous times lost trucks have ended up on his street, adding that the industrial park would not bring the “kind of business Lockport residents want.”
“If I’m not mistaken, election time is coming,” he said, getting loud applause from the crowd that was smaller than at previous meetings.
“We all know you’re voting ‘yes,’ ” said Nancy Hockenberry, adding that the council members “don’t care” about the effort residents have put into researching and speaking out against the development.
Renee Cajandig, an employee at Big Run, said that “environmental concern is paramount” and added that she was “surprised by the apathy” of the city and Prologis. Gerald Sipla said that state agencies such as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency still needed to approve the plan and that the city should await their approval.
Mayor Steven Streit and council members reiterated the city’s stance that it had to allow the concept plan to move forward because of the owner’s legal right to build on property that has industrial zoning that, for the most part, predates any of the city’s adjacent residential neighborhoods.
Streit and Alderman Jason VanderMeer expressed dismay that residents felt the city has been apathetic to their concerns, adding that the council and city staff have been working for months to get concessions from the developer to “mitigate” the presence of the industrial park.
Streit said one concession includes an agreement with Prologis to allow the city to market the part of the property closest to Archer Avenue to retail businesses in order to replace one of the proposed warehouses with a strip mall.
Prologis Representative Jim McGill confirmed in a later phone interview that the developer is open to changing the zoning in that area from industrial to commercial, contingent upon definite interest from retail businesses in building there.
The concept plan has been modified repeatedly since last fall to address residents’ concerns by making buildings smaller, increasing locations and sizes of berms and fencing, and increasing buffer zones from residences to be “far beyond” city code requirements,” City Administrator Ben Benson said Wednesday.
McGill presented the latest changes to the concept plan at the meeting. They include moving a north-south road and building adjacent to Lockport Heights 110 feet further east to increase the distance from the subdivision’s residents, who he acknowledged will be affected the most by the development.
City code requires only a 60-foot buffer zone, but Prologis has now increased it to 223 feet.
Tracy and Denise King, Lockport Heights residents who are close to that area and have been vocal opponents of the development, said after the vote they were skeptical yet “hopeful” that the city and Prologis would be able to mitigate the effects increased truck activity will have on their quality of life.
“We will [continue] to attend every meeting,” Tracy said.
Basile, who did not speak Wednesday, did say after the meeting that he will “let go” of the matter, but will frequently test his water and look out for unusual health issues that his animals, “who come from pristine environments,” might experience.
If his animals do start showing neurological, liver or kidney problems, as he has been warned by experts might be a result of exposure to diesel fumes, he will have to relocate them and shut down the ranch, he said.
“The main [issue] for me will be the loss of the hundreds of thousands of children who have been coming [to the ranch] and my love for [these] animals,” he said. “The only reason I’m still doing this is the kids.”