ELWOOD – The village president of Elwood announced Tuesday that he was canceling Monday’s public hearing about the annexation agreement for the controversial Compass Business Park because of insufficient support from village trustees.
This means the deal for Compass Business Park won’t go through because the village has to hold a public hearing on the matter to approve the agreement.
Village President Doug Jenco said in a news release that it was his intention that the hearing not be rescheduled unless he was instructed to do so at a public meeting of the board of trustees, when the request was on the board agenda. Jenco said he polled each board member individually and found that three of the five were against it and that he would have been the fourth “no” vote.
“No reason to put everybody through the turmoil of another two- or three- or four-day public hearing,” Jenco said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a dead issue.”
The public hearing Monday was scheduled after the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend the annexation, zoning and a special use permit for the project in January. That commission hearing, which took place over three different days because of the large number of people wanting to speak, showed the overwhelming local opposition to the proposed 2,200-acre industrial park.
At least one village trustee, Dean Lowrance, wanted to withhold comment until a special board meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.
“It was a difficult thing for the past, almost year, and now that this decision has come down, it’s the mayor’s purview to make comment of it,” Lowrance said.
NorthPoint Development originally presented the village of Elwood with the opportunity for the project in 2016. News of the development broke after a map of the proposed plans was leaked last summer.
A group of locals from Elwood, Manhattan and Jackson Township, who opposed the project, formed a group called Just Say No to NorthPoint not long after the news of the development broke. The group developed and organized a campaign against Compass Business Park and tried to put pressure on the board to vote against it.
“People said it was inevitable,” a post on the group’s Facebook page read Tuesday. “That it couldn’t be done. We fought anyway. People told us to give up, and that it wasn’t worth fighting. We fought harder. They said it was a done deal. We fought intelligently, strategically and with facts and hard evidence.”
The leaders of the movement against Compass Business Park put in a significant effort to inform the residents about the developing plans and attended several meetings over several months
to show their opposition.
“I am elated that the Elwood mayor and board chose to listen to the people and do the right thing,” said Stephanie Irvine of Just Say No to NorthPoint. “We will stay vigilant, but we are absolutely celebrating this victory. Thank you to everyone who supported us along the way.”
The village also announced on Tuesday that there would be a special meeting of the Board of Trustees on Wednesday night. According to the agenda, the board will consider the appointment and confirmation of a Village Board trustee.
Since January, there has been a vacancy on the board, which usually consists of six members, but now has five. Elwood residents have complained at previous board meetings that Jenco had not appointed someone to fill a vacancy within 60 days, as required by state law, even though multiple residents have shown interest in the position.
Lowrance said the reason the board had not officially considered filling the vacancy until now, was because the Compass Business Park agreement was a big focus of the mayor and board. Jenco added that he considered the fact that he and the five trustees were all elected by Elwood residents and the fact that he couldn’t find someone who was completely impartial on the issue to appoint to the vacant seat.
Now the village has to resolve a few more issues like the pending lawsuits and what, if anything, NorthPoint might do with the land it has already acquired. Residents say they will remain vigilant, but for now, it appears they have won out.
“The people of Elwood, we heard them loud and clear,” Jenco said. “It’s still a process we had to go through. I just couldn’t say ‘Hey, I don’t want to hear anything.’ We had to do the process and that’s what we did.”
NorthPoint spokesman Scott Burnham did not respond for comment on Tuesday.