PEORIA, IL -- A standing room only crowd filled the Peoria City Council chambers on March 31 for the hastily called hearing on the proposed sale of 5.8 acres of Riverfront Park.
The audience first heard a presentation from Chris Setti, the city staffer shepherding the sale and development of the site. It's been proposed for years, he said, and a public hearing was held in May 2013.
The Sierra Club was opposed to the land sale then as now, he said.
On April 14 the council will vote on a redevelopment agreement which sets a timetable for the requirements to sell the land. It must be rezoned, a suitable replacement for the lost acres must be found and acquired, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources must approve the deal, etc.
After all that the city will pay $4.5 million for infrastructure, and property taxes will be used to pay off the bonds to fund that project. "It's not a done deal," Setti said.
The audience asked questions of Setti, then gave comments, with the meeting lasting two hours. People told how they loved the quiet of that greenspace which would be turned into four large buildings with 144 rental units.
"This is one of the few quiet spots left," said a woman.
A few praised the project, saying the city needs to attract 25-44 year olds to live in the city downtown.
Here's the Journal Star's story on the meeting.
Written comments can be sent to Setti at email@example.com.
Here's what I will write:
No responsible government ever sells parkland for development. It is protected for public use forever.
In addition, this project has the stench of insider dealing. Who on the council dreamed up selling this land for development?
When request for proposal documents went out, how did this particular developer get selected?
This is not a free market deal, as some at the hearing suggested. It is a city subsidized deal. The cheap price of this valuable land, the TIF deal, the city-provided infrastructure -- all are taxpayer subsidies for this developer.
This project will compete with construction in the Warehouse district, and the subsidies may enable rent to be lower than on that project.
In addition, these buildings will be crammed into a site next to a chemical plant and a railroad track. Will the environmentally conscious want to live there?
And let's not even mention the school district the project is in. So the demographic for the project is likely young childless people, if they can afford the rent, or empty nesters.
For many reasons, the highest and best use for this land is parkland-- not housing. Period.
- Elaine Hopkins