Residents of south Naperville thought their protest had effectively quashed plans for a concrete recycling center in Wheatland Township, but a reversal by the Will County Board gives the plan new life.
“Between February and Dec. 19, what changed,” resident Chris Leschock asked Tuesday before 75 residents gathered at the River Run Clubhouse. “What new information came to light?”
He referred to a Boughton Material Inc. request for a zoning change and a special use permit to build the concrete recycling facility at 22750 W. Hastert Drive (111th Street) near Naperville.
Will County Board members Chuck Maher and Suzanne Hart, who voted against approving the changes, took questions and tried to address residents’ concerns about the issue.
Homeowners from 16 different homeowners associations in southern Naperville and Bolingbrook have long opposed the plan for the 20-acre facility, citing concerns about traffic, noise and air pollution from the dust they believe will be created by the recycling of cement and other construction materials.
The Will County Planning and Zoning Commission sent the proposal to the Will County Board in late 2012 without a positive recommendation.
The board denied BMI the zoning change and special use permits in February 2013, by a unanimous vote. But under threat of a lawsuit filed by BMI, the County Board negotiated a settlement with BMI and reversed its vote Dec. 19, 2013, with Hart and Maher and only one other board member dissenting.
Maher and Hart both pointed out to the 75 people present that the County Board was advised by the Will County district attorney that the board would likely lose the lawsuit, stressing that BMI had already prevailed in two past lawsuits agains the county.
Maher said that the negotiated deal added seven new restrictions on BMI, including limits on operation times, monitoring materials accepted for recycling and mandating water spraying when the concrete was crushed.
“They agreed to more stipulations,” Maher told the residents, going on to explain that the agreement effectively meant that BMI gave up the right to perform 33 other industrial activities on the land that would have otherwise been permitted.
But the residents weren’t happy with the deal or the fact that they were not involved in the process.
Maher said that once the two parties went into negotiations for a settlement, Will County officials were not allowed to bring outside parties into the negotiations.
“We were bound by silence,” he said.
Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Tatroe agreed with Maher, saying, “There’s a reason they go into executive session ... that needs to be confidential.”
Residents weren’t buying either the argument that the couldn’t be brought into the negotiations or that the county’s loss in the lawsuit was preordained.
At one point people were shouting out questions and opinions.
“You didn’t tell us what was going on and you did the bare minimum,” one person shouted.
Maher said that County Board were afraid of spending $50,000 to $100,000 on a lawsuit and having no concessions from the company to show for it.
“If everyone in this room had been there, the vote would have been the same,” he said.
“That’s a crock,” someone shouted out from the back of the room.
Hart agreed with Maher, noting that the residents would have been even more angry had the county lost the lawsuit and got nothing from BMI.
Hart acknowledged that communication with residents could have been better.
“I should have made that call,” she said.
Going forward, River Run Association President Kamala Martinez said that the group needs to explore what else can be done to make sure BMI keeps its promises.