Eighteen years ago, when Darrell Pinta and his wife, Maureen, moved from Lemont into a house backing up to an open field in New Lenox’s Royal Meadows subdivision, it was for “clear air” because of some of Maureen’s health concerns. Now that view of the open field may be replaced by a large wastewater treatment plant in about four years, and the couple is not happy.
“This is not a welcome change,” Darrell said, sitting in the banquet hall of the New Lenox American Legion branch Tuesday night.
The Pintas were among about 60 to 70 residents from Royal Meadows and the unincorporated portion on Delaney Road who had gathered to discuss how to get the New Lenox board to change its mind about the estimated $55 million project.
Two weeks ago, village trustees approved a $1.9 million purchase agreement for 80 acres west of the subdivision as part of the village’s plans to downgrade treatment Plants 1 and 2 to pumping stations and build the proposed large regional plant.
There’s a 60-day period for the village to do an environmental study on the site before the contract can be finalized.
The proposed plant will be further south of Plant 2, which is about 180 to 185 feet from the nearest homes in the subdivision on Jackson Branch Drive, senior planner Jeff Smith said.
The nearest portion of the proposed site is about a quarter mile from the western limits of the Royal Meadows subdivision, Smith said.
Mayor Tim Baldermann has said that the current treatment plants are at capacity and that the measure is to plan for the growing village’s future, be compliant with the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandates and save the village some money in the long run.
When residents such as Dennis McLaughlin, Rick Shafer and Joe Winslow learned of the plant proposed near their homes, they decided to gather residents to discuss a game plan for stopping it.
Residents in attendance Tuesday night expressed fears about property values dropping, the nuisance of bright lights, sounds and odors emanating from the plant and possible public safety issues.
Ideas discussed included communicating with trustees and other elected officials, attending the village board’s meeting on Feb 12, gathering petitions, and identifying an environmental reason that would not allow the plant on the site.
Many residents like Arthur and Deb Goff took home signs made by McLaughlin that read “NO SEWER PLANT” to plant on their front lawns.
McLaughlin, his father and brother Pat live on and farm about 80 acres of unincorporated land on Delaney Road, just south of the proposed plant site. He informed Royal Meadows’ residents about the proposal by going door to door.
Both brothers said they had spoken with Village Administrator Kurt Carroll, while Dennis also spoke with Baldermann, but were not satisfied with the information they received.
“It’s not a good deal,” Pat McLaughlin told the emotionally charged crowd. “We have the same concerns [as Royal Meadows residents] and some more.”
Dennis said (after the meeting) that the family has planned to sell their farm, probably to a residential developer, when it is inevitable that they must. The plant would be “detrimental” to those plans and the family could stand to lose hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars in property value, he said.
Therese Harvey, a Royal Meadows resident, said she “was crying” when she found out about the plant due to fear of her home’s value dropping.
Schafer, who has lived in Royal Meadows for 22 years, said, “It’s in the wrong place and they need to put it somewhere else, like an industrial area.”
Baldermann met with some residents at the proposed site on Monday, Jan. 29.
In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Baldermann said the Jan. 29 meeting in the field with the residents will not be the only one.
He added that the village plans to do its due diligence at the Delaney Road site “because it’s a site that makes sense.” There are other areas the village may look at if this site does not work out, while some have already been ruled out, he said.
“At the end of the day, this plant will be farther away from every single home in the village of New Lenox than the current plant in Jackson Branch,” Baldermann said.
Dennis McLaughlin, Maureen Pinta, and Bill Clancy — also of Royal Meadows — were present at that Jan. 29 meeting.
Pinta and some other residents — at Baldermann’s recommendation — visited the Aux Sable Treatment Plant in Joliet afterwards to get an idea of what the plant would look like.
She said the view of the sprawling plant and more than 50-feet high tankers “was sickening.” Pictures were distributed at the meeting showing various aspects of the plant, including the dumping site for old cars at the back.
Clancy, who is a pipefitter, said he understands the treatment process well.
“I certainly don’t want it anywhere near my house,” he said.
Reflecting on when she and Darrell first moved to Royal Meadows, Maureen said, “I knew it would be sunsets over a field and possibly sunsets over a subdivision, but I never thought it would be sunsets over a raw sewage treatment plant.”