Approval of New Towne Project Upsetting Local Businesses and Lawmakers

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After laying over the vote three separate times, Rockford City Council members ultimately voted to approve a plat for the South New Towne Drive Housing Project — a decision that many residents are not happy with.

“It shouldn’t have passed,” says Howard Miller, President of Abidon Realty.

Howard Miller owns property near the South New Towne Housing Project site, and is unhappy about City Council’s decision to approve the low income project.

With a 7 to 5 vote, City Council approved a plat of land for the project Tuesday night, giving Gorman the green light to move forward with the project. Property owners in the area say they have already seen the fallout from just the idea of low income housing coming to the neighborhood.

“We got one of our leasers in this building over here. He wouldn’t renew his lease because of this,” Miller says.

Not only are residents worried that it’ll drive people away from the area, but the ones who stay will see their properties lose value.

“I think it’ll devaluate everybody’s property,” says Miller.

Even council members who voted for the plat were pointed in their criticism of Gorman and the Rockford Housing Authority, saying they are pushing a plan nobody wants.

“You got a team of lawyers together and you found a loophole in our ordinance. Is that doing right by the people who are going to live there? No it is not. So shame on you, Ron Clewer [RHA president]. Shame on you RHA. Shame on you Gorman,” says Alderman Jamie Getchius.

Some local lawmakers believe that there are better alternatives to addressing the housing of low-income families, instead of placement in a confined area like New Towne Drive, such as taking advantage of thousands of vacant homes across Rockford.

“What possible rationale is there to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a brand new mini project, instead of utilizing these vacant homes? [Rockford has many houses standing empty that] are a lot less costly and create much more of a scattered housing, which people know works a lot better,” Representative Dave Syverson says.

Despite the friction between those who stand for and against the plan, developers of the South New Towne Project say with last night’s vote, it’s time to start working together.

“I understand that folks are upset. But at this point we all need to move forward,” says RHA CEO Ron Clewer.

In moving forward, Miller tells me that he plans on filing a lawsuit of his own against the City of Rockford to prevent the housing unit from being built.

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