ELWOOD – The third session of a public hearing about the rezoning of land for the controversial Compass Business Park was held Wednesday at Elwood School.
The Elwood Planning and Zoning Commission held two previous meetings, one Dec. 19 and the other Jan. 11, in which hundreds of Elwood, Manhattan and Jackson Township residents came out to oppose the proposed 2,200-acre industrial park. The second and third meetings had to be held at the school because the first one, held at Village Hall, was overwhelmed with hundreds of people coming out to express their opposition.
Just as at the previous meeting, the majority of the 868 capacity gymnasium was filled with people, and nearly all of the speakers were against the project.
Elwood Village Administrator Marian Gibson said that 97 people signed up to speak and 60 of those speakers were able to make their arguments and ask questions of NorthPoint representatives during the first two meetings.
At the last meeting, there were several instances of members of the crowd voicing their support for speakers who argued against the project.
The speaker who went on the longest Wednesday night was Erin Gallagher, who is not a resident of the area, but said she came to speak against the project because she’s one of many in the surrounding area who will be affected by traffic generated by the project.
Gallagher shared her findings from a trip she took to another NorthPoint development site in Edgerton, Kansas, where she said she spoke to locals there who had a number of qualms about the project. Gallagher said residents there complained of traffic congestion and light pollution, among other things.
“You have time to find something better,” Gallagher told the members of the commission. “There are always options, and this project is wrong for Elwood.”
Her presentation got a standing ovation from the crowd.
But NorthPoint representatives refuted a number of her points and insisted they still had the support of the government of Edgerton. A member of the commission described some of the information in Gallagher’s presentation as “hearsay,” although they permitted her to speak.
“We are who we say we are,” said Patrick Robinson, vice president of development at NorthPoint. “We play a clean game.”
Many more speakers continued to make their points about the dangers of increased traffic, the lack of well-paying jobs in the warehouses at such business parks (although NorthPoint said it do not control that), as well as the cost of certain aspects of the project, such as the proposed bridge over Route 53 to help reduce traffic.
Members of the commission tried to convince speakers to give new information in their testimony, but several persisted in showing their opposition.