A proposed trucking warehouse hit a major pothole Tuesday as the Homewood village board voted down a proposal to rezone the property to make way for the project.
“Nowhere in our comprehensive plan has it ever said that a loud, diesel-fueled, smog-inducing, tree-killing and road-wrecking trucking hub would be a good idea for our future development,” Trustee Lisa Purcell said.
Homewood originally approved a settlement with Diversified Partners of Arizona on Jan. 26 after the firm petitioned to disconnect from the village. The developer planned to build a distribution warehouse center on the site of the Calumet Country Club.
The agreement included rezoning the property, a TIF district for the area, endorsement of a Class 8 Cook County property tax assessment reduction and a $1 million advance on construction costs.
Homewood’s planning and zoning commission unanimously voted against the rezoning last week but the village board had the final approval. The rezoning needed to be completed within 60 days of Jan. 26 for the village to be in compliance with the settlement.
All five board members voted against the measure. Trustee Larry Burnson was absent.
"I have never been more proud to be a member of this board than I am this evening," Trustee Karen Washington said. "I also want to say that I've never been more proud to be a resident of Homewood."
Diversified Partners originally planned to disconnect from Homewood presumably to later be annexed by Hazel Crest, which borders the property at 175th Street at Dixie Highway on three sides. Village attorneys felt Homewood could not block the disconnection of the property and the village agreed to the settlement to retain some control over the project in an effort to mitigate its negative effects.
Since then, Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry changed his stance from “neutral” to against the development. Marcia Hollis-Bratcher, his opponent in the April 6 municipal election, has been against the development and has spoken at Homewood meetings and gatherings of the South Suburbs for Greenspace Over Concrete, a group of citizens organized to oppose the project.
“We’re at this point because as recently as last November, four months ago, Hazel Crest refused to stand with us and not accept Calumet Country Club if disconnected from Homewood,” Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld said Tuesday. “Please remember, if that had occurred, we would not be discussing this matter this evening. A settlement agreement would not have been needed, nor would we have entered into one.”
Walt Brown Jr., CEO of Diversified Partners, said in a Wednesday email to The Chronicle that his firm would move forward with the disconnection petition in light of Tuesday’s vote.
“We are proceeding with the settlement agreement as per agreed to and is documented between the parties. We are amazed that the plan was OK to Homewood before but all of the sudden wasn’t,” Brown said.
SSGOC members came out in droves for over 20 hours of planning and zoning commission meetings, as well as Tuesday’s village board meeting. They cross examined Diversified Partners representatives and held rallies outside.
Board members said they’ve been harassed by residents opposed to the project by phone, email and on social media. Trustee Lauren Roman said some sat in front of her home and pointed at her through her windows.
“While I think every citizen has a right for their voice to be heard, I think that this issue did bring out the worst in a small group of people. I think that civility and decorum were put on the backburner in what I believe was an effort to be heard,” Roman said. “Intimidation is not going to work. Nobody intimidated us into this decision. We made this decision because it was the right decision for the village. I hope that those acts were not done from the heart.”
Some residents pushed back against that notion Tuesday.
“It’s just really ridiculous for us to get any shame or blame in the matter because all we did was try to stand up for our lives, for our community, for our children, for the future generations,” Keaton Fisher said. “If some people’s feelings got hurt along the way, I’m sorry.”
Liz Varmecky, one of the leaders of SSGOC, said the group plans to remain active and continue to encourage Homewood and neighboring Hazel Crest officials to work together to oppose the redevelopment.
"Obviously, this is just one step in the battle, but this is a big step," she said. "We're really happy that the village has chosen to stand with the residents."