Illinois American gets approval for treatment facility

By Danielle Gaines

The duties of a good neighbor were at the fore of conversation during Tuesday’s Champaign city council meeting. First, in a public hearing that lasted an hour and later just before the council voted to approve an annexation agreement with Illinois American Water Company.

The agreement, which passed 7-2, rezones 40 acres of what was agricultural land for industrial purposes. The company plans to build a water treatment facility on the land.

“Most of us who live in a farming try to abide by one principle – and that is to be a good neighbor,” said Les Gioja, a community member speaking on behalf of several residents.

Dozens of issues with the legislation were brought forth.

Many residents near the facility worry about its appearance and its imposing nature in an otherwise serene, rural setting.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “I don’t know anyone who would say I want to move across the street from the water company,” Arna Leavitt said.

    Leavitt currently resides directly across the street from the now-approved facility. She said she does not consider the company to be a good neighbor.

    “They haven’t been so far,” she said. “Clearly it is a money issue. I also feel they cheated the farmer.”

    In February, American Illinois Water purchased 40 acres of land from a farmer for $7,000 per acre. This cost is significantly less than land located in areas already zoned for industrial use. Many community members as well as council members expressed uncertainty in “spot zoning” when industrialized areas are within two miles of the location in some areas.

    County Board members Steve Moser and Jonathan Schroeder were present to show concern about the development.

    “I think there is a better way to do this,” Schroeder said.

    Both men indicated that a decision by the city of Champaign to allow the annexation would undermine the time and money the county has invested in land use planning.

    “I don’t like spot zoning,” Councilwoman Marci Dodds, District four, said. “I worry about it’s domino potential. We could be facilitating something we don’t intend to facilitate. I don’t like that we are disrespecting the county, residents and comprehensive plan.”

    For a more in-depth look at the debate, log on to www.dailyillini.com.