ELWOOD – Jodie and Allan Bertucci are the kind of people who can tell you a little something about everyone in their neighborhood.
They live in a subdivision off Manhattan Road in Elwood, a street that gets a lot of unauthorized truck traffic. On a recent Sunday afternoon, the Bertuccis were knocking on the doors of all their neighbors asking for signatures on a petition against Compass Business Park.
Jodie and so many of her neighbors who are against the proposed 2,200-acre industrial park by NorthPoint Development are set to go before the Elwood Village Board. She and her husband decided to settle in Elwood because of the quiet, peaceful feeling. She specifically remembers Elwood as such a great place to live because she grew up there, but now, it appears to be in jeopardy, she said.
“I think we’re losing that small town,” she said.
With the first dozen or so houses, all but one or two of the neighbors they visited didn’t enthusiastically sign. The petition is asking Mayor Doug Jenco to use his authority to block the project, as well as fire Village Administrator Marian Gibson, appoint someone to fill the vacancy on the Village Board and improve transparency by returning to two monthly board meetings, among other requests.
Although they knew almost all of their neighbors, the Bertuccis didn’t have to do much convincing. Their neighbors were worried about the same thing they were: more truck traffic. Overall, the effort, about a week before the public hearing, collected about 600 signatures from Elwood residents. For reference, the village of Elwood only has about 2,200 residents, and in the 2017 municipal elections, the village mayoral race saw 453 total votes cast.
They also don’t buy the perks NorthPoint is pushing, such as giving the village a loan to pay off its substantial debt, but with interest of course.
But the opposition looks overwhelming to the Elwood residents. Just in the Bertuccis’ neighborhood, of the 60 or so homes, residents said about eight are up for sale or the owners are planning on selling in the near future.
“It looks good on paper,” Allan said. “What’s the point?”
The Bertuccis also were asking their neighbors whether they wanted a red lightbulb to display at their homes as a visual sign of their opposition to the project. Many of their neighbors already had one to participate in the protest.
These efforts are leading up to the April 23 public hearing on the annexation agreement for the project. Residents made several comments out of frustration that the meeting is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Gibson tried to make it clear that anyone unable to be there at 4 p.m. will be able to come at a later time and still sign up to speak whenever they arrive.
“We’re trying to open it to make it so that more people can be there,” she said. “We’re not stopping at 5 [p.m.] It’s going to go on until it’s done.”
Despite the complaints, the Elwood activists still are determined to show up at the meeting and are encouraging their neighbors to attend. But by this point, after the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the annexation agreement, even after hours of testimony overwhelmingly against it, there are residents who think the project is a done deal.
“You know we’re not going to win, right?” resident Mary Vesely said.
Even the Bertuccis see the writing on the wall. They’ve been contemplating moving themselves, but they and others are not going down without a fight.
The public hearing on the annexation agreement will be at 4 p.m.
April 23 at the Elwood Consolidated School, at 409 N. Chicago Ave.