Since I was silenced while trying to express my opinion at this month’s county board meeting by Mrs. Tilley, I have decided to use a different venue to state my concerns.
The tone of some of the members in statements and the use of the review process to establish moratoriums on development in the county is sending a bad message to future developers who may be looking here as a location.
Mr. Carter stating "Let me remind you that the vision of DeWitt County is to preserve the agricultural heritage and to provide high quality residential growth" and "I just want you to know what you'll be dealing with when you come in" during a land use committee meeting cannot be taken as anything but anti-development. (quoted in the Clinton Journal 4/16)
His motions for "review" are intended to stop, obstruct and hinder development. Most of these motions and ridiculous statements are for notoriety. The “hey, look at me” moment. They have no true substance except to obstruct and hinder. I know of no developer who would go forward with an application and not know for up to six months what ordinances are required to be observed in order to complete the project! Instead, I would look for a friendlier, more welcoming environment in which to spend my money and my time. By any other name, it is still a moratorium!
It's not a secret that developers don't walk into any situation they haven't researched. They also communicate among themselves at meetings, conventions and trade shows as examples. Word of mouth can be a death warrant.
If it was just one member going rogue, it would be a small, controllable problem, but these motions went to a vote and passed by a vast majority of the board! That creates a much larger and more serious issue.
The argument that development would take farmland out of production is true. It happened when Thorp/Syngenta in Wapella and Dekalb Seed in Farmer City were built, but look at how well they turned out. Any development on land the county is accountable for will do this: barns, tool sheds, grain elevators, even residential development. Progress is change and we must reconcile ourselves to that. Unless your land is being taken through an eminent domain action, it shouldn't be your issue. “Let's not tell someone else how to use their land” was a cry often used by the anti-wind group, and I agree.
With Rivian expanding, there should be some opportunities for our county. We have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, overall tax rates of the 102 counties in Illinois. The travel time from DeWitt County to the Rivian plant is approximately the same time it takes to get across town in Bloomington-Normal. The roads to Rivian from here are all 4 lane and mostly interstate highway. There are even buildings setting empty which could be utilized. I believe Miller Container is an example and a possibility. The board members who represent the county on the DCDC, Mrs. Meyers and Mr. Kammeyer, should be pushing to investigate such opportunities. Unfortunately, they are too concerned about micro-managing a wind farm.
The county board's vision should be focused on opportunity. It should assist, encourage and embrace development, not throw up roadblocks, obstruct and trash it. The residents don't want higher taxes or diminished basic services. This will, unfortunately, be the case if there is no foresight when it comes to development and increasing the tax base. It's not an “if,” but a “when” situation!
The difference in tax rates for agricultural property and commercial property is significant and development could help alleviate some of the losses we are surely going to experience.
Finally, the conversation about the zoning administrator’s qualifications was appalling! That discussion should have been done in his office and not during a public meeting. Another "hey look at me" moment. If this was an example of the regard for our county's staff, it's a situation that is not acceptable or good management policy!