Crown Development officials started making the case Wednesday night for why they should be allowed to build a $645 million project -- mostly warehouses and distribution centers -- near I-88 and Route 47 in Sugar Grove.
They faced a tough audience, as an estimated 300-plus area residents attended the public hearing before the Sugar Grove Plan Commission.
"We didn't realize there would be so much interest," commission Chairman Irv Ochsenschlager said at the outset, which prompted disbelief-tinged laughs from the crowd. The development has been much discussed in the last week on Facebook, with one page registering more than 400 followers in several days. The village borrowed a meeting room at the Sugar Grove Public Library for the hearing, but the room could only hold about 200 people.
About 662 acres of the 760 would be built on. Most would be for business and commercial uses, and 98 acres for single-family housing, according to Dan Olsem, vice president of engineering and construction for Crown Community Development. CCD is one of the Henry Crown and Co. companies.
Crown bought the parcels, which are farmland, from 2001 to 2006.
"We have to build to what the market wants and what the market wants right now is e-commerce," Olsem said. "It is absolutely the hot market right now. For e-commerce to work you need distribution facilities, and you need access to a highway or an interstate system to move those products quickly.
"This site is perfect for that."
The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is scheduled to start building a full interchange for I-88 at Route 47. It is a partial interchange now.
After an hourlong presentation by Crown representatives, the public started in.
"Many of us here in Sugar Grove chose Sugar Grove for the tranquillity and clean air that rural living provides. We want to ensure our quality of life, our health, our safety and our infrastructure," said Linda Gaska, drawing cheers from the audience. She said she worries about diesel-particulate pollution from trucks that would come and go, safety on roads and how tall buildings would be, among other matters.
Speakers said they were also concerned about possible contamination of an aquifer that feeds their drinking-water wells, increase in crime, the loss of mature trees on the site, and flooding. One lamented the loss of the high-quality farmland.
The hearing was suspended shortly after 9 p.m. because the library closed. It will continue the meeting Jan. 23 at a location to be determined. The village is looking for a larger space, perhaps at Waubonsee Community College or a church, said Walter Magdiarz, the village's community development director.