Thursday, August 27, 2009
A Small Victory for my Neighborhood
About 2 years ago, I rallied with many of my neighbors when we learned that a conditional use permit for a new gravel pit was being processed by our county. The more we learned about this proposed land use, the more alarmed we became. We began attending the various hearings and testimonies being presented to the officials here--and we turned out in pretty good numbers, filling the rooms and just watching the proceedings--sometimes being allowed to ask questions. Experts were presented to address issues of vehicle traffic, dust, noise, water quality, environmental impact, loss of prime farm land acreage...all pretty big deals when you live in the immediate vicinity of such a big undertaking.
I put a big sign up on our farm here, near the road, that changed regularly - notifying neighbors driving by of the time and place various meetings and hearings would happen. We held neighborhood meetings at one locals' home to plot strategies. We were, truth be told, pretty scared given the high powered legal team this company had working the system for them, plus our county's history of supporting many projects like this.
In the end, the 7 member county commission sided with us and denied the permit for the gravel pit...we could hardly believe it and yet, it was a unanimous decision against the gravel pit! But that wasn't the end of the story. The gravel company sued our county to overturn the decision. For the past 2 years, this has dragged through the courts. At this level, it was completely out of the hands of the neighbors or, for that matter, of the county except for their legal representation.
Well just tonight I opened the paper and much to my surprise--the court has sided with the county's decision to deny the permit-which means it sided with our neighborhood!! What did we avoid? Up to 400 trips by large gravel trucks driving past our homes every day, unbelievable amounts of dust and noise, and possible contamination of our aquifer (from which our wells draw water.)
I'm so happy and grateful that this threat to our neighborhood has been put to rest!! Had it been approved, it really would have changed the character of the beautiful countryside I live in. The population around our area has more than doubled since I was a youngster growing up around here. The traffic has increased noticeably and there are many more homes around here. I guess this is inevitable, given that we're barely an hour out of Chicago, yet we still have a rural feeling in our part of the county and agriculture and some livestock are still important industries.
Chances are good that it's just a matter of time before the next development project comes along. In fact, it's probably inevitable...but at least for now, there's still peace in the valley.